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“IRAQ IS THE CENTRAL FRONT IN THE WAR AGAINST ISLAMIC EXTREMISM”



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Sen. Joe Lieberman, just returned from the Middle East, has a very strong op-ed in the Washington Post today (which is one of NRO’s “Hot Links” today). A few key excerpts:

[L]et there be no doubt: If Iraq descends into full-scale civil war, it will be a tremendous battlefield victory for al-Qaeda and Iran. Iraq is the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism. …

In Baghdad and Ramadi, I found that it was the American colonels, even more than the generals, who were asking for more troops. In both places these soldiers showed a strong commitment to the cause of stopping the extremists. One colonel followed me out of the meeting with our military leaders in Ramadi and said with great emotion, “Sir, I regret that I did not have the chance to speak in the meeting, but I want you to know on behalf of the soldiers in my unit and myself that we believe in why we are fighting here and we want to finish this fight. We know we can win it.”

In nearly four years of war, there have never been sufficient troops dispatched to accomplish our vital mission. The troop surge should be militarily meaningful in size, with a clearly defined mission.

More U.S. forces might not be a guarantee of success in this fight, but they are certainly its prerequisite. Just as the continuing carnage in Baghdad empowers extremists on all sides, establishing security there will open possibilities for compromise and cooperation on the Iraqi political front — possibilities that simply do not exist today because of the fear gripping all sides. …

As the hostile regimes in Iran and Syria appreciate — at times, it seems, more keenly than we do — failure in Iraq would be a strategic and moral catastrophe for the United States and its allies. Radical Islamist terrorist groups, both Sunni and Shiite, would reap victories simultaneously symbolic and tangible, as Iraq became a safe haven in which to train and strengthen their foot soldiers and Iran’s terrorist agents. Hezbollah and Hamas would be greatly strengthened against their moderate opponents. One moderate Palestinian leader told me that a premature U.S. exit from Iraq would be a victory for Iran and the groups it is supporting in the region. Meanwhile, the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have bravely stood with us in the hope of a democratic future would face the killing fields.

In Iraq today we have a responsibility to do what is strategically and morally right for our nation over the long term — not what appears easier in the short term. The daily scenes of death and destruction are heartbreaking and infuriating. But there is no better strategic and moral alternative for America than standing with the moderate Iraqis until the country is stable and they can take over their security. Rather than engaging in hand-wringing, carping or calls for withdrawal, we must summon the vision, will and courage to take the difficult and decisive steps needed for success and, yes, victory in Iraq. That will greatly advance the cause of moderation and freedom throughout the Middle East and protect our security at home.



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