I have a lot of respect for Senator Joe Lieberman, who has been one of the few Democrats to carry on the honorable legacy of Henry Truman, Scoop Jackson, and other strong leaders of the Democratic Party. I may not always agree with the Senator on a lot of issues, but on Iraq he provides and eloquent and passionate defense of the Iraqi people in their fight against terrorism:
It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.
Lieberman, much to his credit, understands the nature of this war. We’re fighting terrorism in Iraq, there can be no doubt of that. Al-Qaeda has joined us in battle there, and it would be deeply irresponsible for us to simply abandon that battle. What message would we send to al-Qaeda by once again proving bin Laden’s belief that we have neither the courage nor the will to fight? How can one possibly reconcile a doctrine that would be rightly seen as an admission of weakness and defeat with prosecuting the war on terrorism to its fullest? Lieberman clearly understands the massive internal contradiction of that argument.
Furthermore, Lieberman touches on something that I think the President must strongly address tomorrow at West Point – this isn’t a war against Iraq, this is a war in which the interests of Iraq and America are one. Not only do we have the same interests in defeating terrorism and leaving Iraq a safe place to live, but what would a surrender say about our commitment to human rights as a nation? Do we merely play lip service to the concepts of democracy and human rights but would leave 27 million to anarchy and slaughter for what inevitably amounts to short-term political gain? Actions speak louder the words, and for all the hand-wringing about how we’re perceived because of Iraq, how would posterity judge us if we broke Iraq and left it broken? We owe it to Iraq, and we owe it to ourselves to finish the job and finish it right.
Lieberman also notes something important that the President should address:
Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration’s recent use of the banner “clear, hold and build” accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.
Our initial reconstruction strategy was a disaster. The CPA did the best it could under difficult circumstances. We made a lot of mistakes, but as Lieberman notes, we have a strategy that works. We never had the ability to hold territory in Iraq, and even if we had the manpower, holding Iraq would only further cement the idea that we were foreign occupiers. The only way to effectively pacify Iraq over the long term is to have Iraqi units capable of keeping the peace. Slowly but surely, that is what is happening. Condoleezza Rice has taken over from the Cheney/Rumsfeld axis and instituted the “clear, hold, and build” policy which is the best policy for the long-term stability of Iraq. Taking out the terrorists helps, but unless Iraqis can build up their country on their own, we could never stop the violence as much as is necessary.
Lieberman is right. The media is spinning this war into a loss while our soldiers and their Iraqi compatriots are making palpable progress with each passing day. Even none other than former French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin realizes that an artificial timetable in Iraq would be a disaster for thr region. Our war on terrror requires us to finish the job in Iraq, and thankfully there are leaders on both sides who are willing to put partisanship aside and do what’s right for the future of this country and for a more peaceful world.