Lieberman Jolts Senate Debate On Iraq
Today during Congressional debate over the Iraq withdrawal proposal (there's little wiggle room to call it much else), Senator Joe Lieberman challenged his fellow Senators and passionately implored them to reconsider "congressional micromanagement of life-and-death decisions about how, where, and when our troops can fight." National Review's Kathryn Lopez provides the full text at the new NRO blog, The Tank. The key graphs - though still a lengthy excerpt - are below.
In sum, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t withdraw combat troops from Iraq and still fight Al Qaeda there. If you believe there is no hope of winning in Iraq, or that the costs of victory there are not worth it, then you should be for complete withdrawal as soon as possible.
There is another irony here as well.
For most of the past four years, under Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the United States did not try to establish basic security in Iraq. Rather than deploying enough troops necessary to protect the Iraqi people, the focus of our military has been on training and equipping Iraqi forces, protecting our own forces, and conducting targeted sweeps and raids—in other words, the very same missions proposed by the proponents of the legislation before us.
That strategy failed—and we know why it failed. It failed because we didn’t have enough troops to ensure security, which in turn created an opening for Al Qaeda and its allies to exploit. They stepped into this security vacuum and, through horrific violence, created a climate of fear and insecurity in which political and economic progress became impossible.
For years, many members of Congress recognized this. We talked about this. We called for more troops, and a new strategy, and—for that matter—a new secretary of defense.
And yet, now, just as President Bush has come around—just as he has recognized the mistakes his administration has made, and the need to focus on basic security in Iraq, and to install a new secretary of defense and a new commander in Iraq—now his critics in Congress have changed their minds and decided that the old, failed strategy wasn’t so bad after all.
What is going on here? What has changed so that the strategy that we criticized and rejected in 2006 suddenly makes sense in 2007?
The second element in the plan outlined by the Majority Leader on Monday is “the phased redeployment of our troops no later than October 1, 2007.”
Let us be absolutely clear what this means. This legislation would impose a binding deadline for U.S. troops to begin retreating from Iraq. This withdrawal would happen regardless of conditions on the ground, regardless of the recommendations of General Petraeus, in short regardless of reality on October 1, 2007.
As far as I can tell, none of the supporters of withdrawal have attempted to explain why October 1 is the magic date—what strategic or military significance this holds. Why not September 1? Or January 1? This is a date as arbitrary as it is inflexible—a deadline for defeat.
How do proponents of this deadline defend it? On Monday, Senator Reid gave several reasons. First, he said, a date for withdrawal puts “pressure on the Iraqis to make the desperately needed political compromises.”
But will it? According to the legislation now before us, the withdrawal will happen regardless of what the Iraqi government does.How, then, if you are an Iraqi government official, does this give you any incentive to make the right choices?
When read in full, Senator Lieberman's spirited words echo in part the arguments made in my article published at National Review Online yesterday, This Is Counterterrorism, Senator.
Because Senator Lieberman read them? Hardly, and unlikely in any event. The arguments sound strikingly similar because, quite bluntly, "it ain't exactly Rocket Science."
Though, with what Senator Lieberman faces among his colleagues, one would think it was an advanced form of such science. His words in full are worth your time today.