Sen. Lamar Alexander told the Chattanooga Rotary Club on Thursday that the nation has learned some lessons in Iraq, including the perils of waging a peremptive war.
Sen. Alexander said such a war "leads to a lot of problems."
But he said there has been no call for an immediate retreat from Iraq, saying, "It would be even worse if we left before the job was done."
He said another lesson is that "it is better to go in with friends if you can."
And he said the U.S. was better prepared to wage the war than to handle the rebuilding process.
Sen. Alexander said the U.S. might consider developing a new special forces unit whose specialty is "winning the peace."
He said the team would be adept in "learning the language, opening schools and rebuilding hospitals."
Sen. Alexander said in the speech at the Convention Center that he has been "astonished" at the size of spending in Washington and the deficit that has accumulated.
He said the deficit was driven by the 911 terrorist attack, a recession and the Iraq war.
He said, "President Bush didn't create the deficit," saying it is Congress that approves all spending.
He said he will cooperate in the Bush plan to cut the deficit in half in five years.
Sen. Alexander said if Democrats had their way on spending bills "the deficit would have been $800 billion higher in 10 years."
He said, "One side wants to raise taxes and spend more money. The other side wants to restrain spending and cut taxes."
He said most agree with the Bush priorities of funding for homeland security, national defense and education. He said it is "a time when there is a need to dramatically improve our schools."
Sen. Alexander hit Democrats on blocking votes on Bush judicial appointments, saying he believes it will be a factor in upcoming elections.