Thursday, August 23, 2007
Senator Lieberman is a true statesman and patriot
"Some of these opponents of the war are now turning their harshest criticism on our allies in Iraq instead of our enemies." As even many critics of the Iraq war now acknowledge, General Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy is making real and significant progress in our fight there. Whereas a year ago, al Qaeda in Iraq controlled large swaths of territory, it is now being driven out of its former strongholds in Anbar and Diyala provinces by the surge in U.S. forces and their increasingly capable Iraqi allies. Whereas a year ago, sectarian violence was spiraling out of control in Iraq, it is now being damped down, and the militias that once terrorized Baghdad are being rolled back. Whereas a year ago, Iraq's Sunni Arab community was largely allied with the insurgency, more and more Sunnis are coming over to our side, to fight against al Qaeda.Forced by facts on the ground to acknowledge the progress of the American and Iraqi militaries since the new surge strategy started, some of these opponents of the war are now turning their harshest criticism on our allies in Iraq instead of our enemies. This is a mistake. Whatever the shortcomings of our friends in Iraq, they are not an excuse to retreat from the real enemies who threaten our vital national interests there. I share the frustrations about the performance of the Iraqi government. But the fact is, as my colleagues know, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus are meeting every day with Iraq's democratically-elected leaders to help them reach compromise and reconciliation on a range of complex, painful, and existential issues. Political progress in Iraq depends on this kind of steady statecraft and patient diplomacy on the ground in Baghdad, rather than scapegoating and congressionally-ordered coups. Ironically, it was not so long ago that many in Congress criticized the Bush administration for what they described as its heavy-handed and patronizing treatment of our most important allies in the world. Now many of those very critics make the exact same mistake in their treatment of the Iraqis, whose citizens—lest we forget—are fighting and dying every day in the struggle against al Qaeda, and in far higher numbers than any other nationality. Ultimately, the choice we face in Iraq is not between the current Iraqi government and a perfect Iraqi government. Rather, it is a choice between a young, imperfect, struggling democracy that we have helped midwife into existence, and the totalitarian, terrorist regime that al Qaeda hopes to impose in its place, should we retreat. Indeed, while it is true there is no pure "military" solution to the violence in Iraq, it is worth remembering that neither is there any pure "political" solution. Al Qaeda in Iraq and other irreconcilable extremists must be defeated and destroyed in order for Iraq to be stable and free, and for the United States to be safe. Al Qaeda is not mass murdering hundreds of Iraqi civilians in suicide bombings because the Iraqi government hasn't made enough progress toward political reconciliation, but because al Qaeda is determined to destroy any hope of political reconciliation.We have made enormous progress in defending and advancing America's vital national interests in Iraq over the past six months against our two deadliest enemies in the world—al Qaeda and Iran. Realism requires that we recognize these gains, not dismiss or disparage them—and that we distinguish between our allies in Iraq, and our enemies.