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Sen. Reed, leading voice on Iraq war, to speak tonight

Friday, March 3, 2006

When Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., talks about Iraq, people listen.

He made his seventh trip to Iraq in January, visiting troops in Tal Afar, a city near the Syrian border that was re-taken from insurgents by American and Iraqi forces in mid-2005. Also a four-time visitor to Afghanistan, Reed has emerged as the leading Democratic voice in the Senate on progress in Iraq.

This evening, he will deliver the Stephen Ogden ’60 Memorial Lecture on International Affairs in List 120, at 6 p.m. His lecture, titled “President Bush and the Long War: Are Slogans Enough?” will address Iraq, Iran and President George W. Bush’s strategy for fighting global terror, he said.

“I think there’s been progress (in Iraq), but it’s very fragile and it could be reversed,” Reed told The Herald in a Feb. 17 interview. “On the military side we have established territorial control. There are no longer insurgent enclaves like Falluja and Tal Afar. But the insurgency is very adaptable and they are exploiting the political divisions and economic troubles” in Iraq.

Reed said Iraq needs “a government, not just a leadership,” and though the December elections were an important step forward, working ministries that can provide services to the general population are a necessary next step.

“I think it’s going to take many, many months,” he said.

Reed said he will discuss these and other topics, including “the extent that the focus on Iraq and the huge resources in Iraq have constrained our flexibility when dealing with Iran,” in his speech.

Reed grew up in Cranston and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1971. He served as an Army Ranger and paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division before becoming a professor at West Point in 1978. He retired from active service in 1979, after earning his master’s degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

He then earned a degree from Harvard Law School and became a lawyer with Providence- and Washington-based law firms before entering the Rhode Island Senate in 1984. In 1990, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and then to the U.S. Senate in 1996, succeeding longtime Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I. Reed serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee and is the ranking minority member on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee.

Reed has built a reputation as a knowledgeable voice on the war in Iraq. When President Bush delivered four speeches in December on progress in Iraq, Reed gave the official Democratic response.

University officials said they are excited to have Reed speak on campus.

“Given his experience, Senator Reed’s lecture will give the Brown community a unique perspective on an important international issue, which is what the Ogden lectureship is designed to do,” said Michael Chapman, vice president for public affairs and University relations.

Chapman specifically cited Reed’s military experience, which Reed has often drawn on when discussing the war in Iraq.

“I think it gives me some credibility and it gives me some insights that some of my colleagues don’t have, having commanded troops,” Reed said. “You get a sense of how it works and what questions to ask.”

That experience is becoming more rare in the Senate – in the 109th Congress, there are only 30 senators who have served in the military, down from 35 in the 108th Congress. Reed said his colleagues who have not served “are very thoughtful people and they have life experiences that help them address difficult questions,” but they often miss “the nuances” of military policy.

Many of those senators, Reed said, have “a sense that the military can do more than it can. Rather than being more questioning, they’re less questioning because they assume we have such a great military and it can do anything.”

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