Count the Joint Chiefs of Staff among those resisting an infusion of U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq. They raise the same question citizens...

Count the Joint Chiefs of Staff among those resisting an infusion of U.S. soldiers and Marines in Iraq. They raise the same question citizens on the home front are asking: More troops in harm’s way to accomplish what?

After years of mute obedience and stifled opinions, it is heartening to hear professional soldiers speak up and offer advice. Maybe that is another sign of how badly things are going in this war — or evidence of how tightly former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld kept the lid on. The Washington Post reported Tuesday the heads of the nation’s service branches are balking at the Bush administration’s exploration of a surge of 30,000 troops on top of the 140,000 now deployed. Even the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, is opposed to a large increase.

President Bush initially rallied support for his war with faulty information. Three and half years later, the public is wide-eyed and aware of the grim realities of sectarian violence and the deadly environment for the U.S. military.

Any request for more troops begs an explanation of the mission.

To secure all of Iraq? Impossible. To seal up the borders? No. End the violence and chaos in Baghdad? Highly improbable. Secure a single district or neighborhood for a photo-op before departure? Maybe.

The Post’s esteemed military writer, Thomas Ricks, reports that Abizaid opposes an expanded U.S. presence because it would perpetuate a dependency among Iraqi forces, and would increase popular resistance to what is widely seen as an American occupation.

President Bush describes 2006 as a disappointing year for the war. In the past 12 months, more than 760 Americans were killed, and thousands wounded. Those casualties are in the midst of an insurgency separate and apart from the religious and civil strife pounding away with impunity in the presence of U.S. forces.

Iraq is a lethal bog with no rhyme or reason. Even the professional warriors have no clue how spilling more American blood will make things safer or saner.

Administration energy spent clamoring for a bigger American military presence would be better directed at convincing Iraq’s neighbors they have a stake in brokering peace and keeping Iraq whole.