Weeks? Months? Years?
Before the war:
A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. military will control Iraq in the short term after Saddam's removal. Troops will maintain security, protect Iraq's oil fields, ensure that other nations respect Iraq's existing borders and find and destroy weapons of mass destruction.
A civilian administrator will eventually take over the work of engaging Iraqis in the formation of a democratic government. The transition would last months, not weeks, the official said, adding that a more precise estimate won't be possible until it is clear how Iraq weathered an attack.
After the war:
Leading U.S. senators from both parties said on Monday American troops could be in Iraq for at least five years but the White House cautioned it was too soon to set a time limit on U.S. involvement in Iraq.
The senators, members of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee who are on a fact-finding visit to Iraq, said they expected a long-term commitment of U.S. troops and urged the White House to be more open with its plans.
"I think we're going to be here in a big way with forces and economic input for a minimum of three to five years," Sen. Joseph Biden, the committee's ranking Democrat, told reporters in Baghdad.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, agreed with Biden that five years was a realistic figure as did committee chair, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana.
President Bush declared Tuesday that rebuilding Iraq, following a U.S.-led invasion there, will be a "massive and long-term undertaking," one that he suggested would require further sacrifice.
Appearing to address concerns about the rising number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq, Bush declared that anyone who attacks U.S. troops "will be met with direct and decisive force." And he said the U.S. commitment to Iraq would not be shaken, despite attacks from "scattered groups of terrorists" inside Iraq.
"We should declare war on North Vietnam. . . .We could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it, and still be home by Christmas." -Ronald Reagan, 1965
"By intervening in the Vietnamese struggle the United States was attempting to fit its global strategies into a world of hillocks and hamlets, to reduce its majestic concerns for the containment of communism and the security of the Free World to a dimension where governments rose and fell as a result of arguments between two colonels' wives." -Frances Fitzgerald, 1972
"All the wrong people remember Vietnam. I think all the people who remember it should forget it, and all the people who forgot it should remember it." -Michael Herr, 1989