As such, this post is in response to the numerous comments made, most recently, Genghis Conn's post, Hang On A Second on Friday September 15, 2006 about the text of Senator Lieberman's speech where he uttered this now infamous sentence. I encourage you all to read this objectively, in particular the part I bolded. I really think it speaks for itself, therefore this is my only comment on the subject.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE...forget about what candidate you support for a few moments and read it objectively, as hard is it may be. As you read it, keep in mind that I am not questioning anyone's support of any candidate with this post, only the use of this sentence by many.
Thank you very much David McCurdy, my friend for your generous introduction and for your continuing public service and let me join you in thanking Dr. Andy Krepanevich and the Center for all that he and it has contributed to American thinking and policy on defense, and in this case particularly on the war in Iraq. I am honored to join both of you in this discussion this morning. Before Andy offers his latest insights on Iraq, which I look forward to, I in some sense want to set the context. I want to say a few things about what I believe is on the line there in Iraq, about how we are conducting ourselves here in Washington, and how what happens here affects what will happen there.
The title of this program is “How to Win in Iraq.” That was the title of Andy’s seminal article in the journal Foreign Affairs earlier this fall, and it seems to me that is ought to be the focus of Congressional discussions about the war from now until its conclusion. The most important debate going on currently here about the war in Iraq is between some people who are focused on withdrawal of our forces regardless of conditions on the ground and the rest of us who believe that our goal in Iraq is not to withdraw but to win, so we can leave with the mission accomplished.
This is a serious and significant debate and in the vitality and health of our democracy will continue to go on. I hope it goes on with a recognition that there are Republicans and Democrats on both sides and that it should be conducted in a spirit of mutual respect and national interest.
For my part, I agree with Dr. Krepinevich's observation that, “The war (in Iraq), which arguably began as a “war of choice” has become a “war of necessity” we cannot afford to lose. The costs of victory in Iraq will be large for the U.S. But the costs of defeat would be disastrous for the U.S., Iraq, the Middle East, and most of the world.
The costs of victory will be high in American lives lost and American money spent. But the costs of defeat would be disastrous – they include the collapse of the new Iraqi regime, civil war, regional war, a victory for Zarqawi and Al Qaeda, which will embolden them to attack both other Arab countries and our American homeland, the rollback of democracy in the region, and the painful realization that the lives of American soldiers who have died in Iraq were given in vain.
Defeat in Iraq would also carry a heavy cost of lost opportunities. We are there not just to defeat the terrorists – not even mostly to defeat the terrorists – we are there to provide the security for a self-government by the Iraqis where the creation of a modern, open, thriving state in this historic center of the Arab and Islamic worlds. If we accept defeat in Iraq we will have lost the opportunity to create within this great nation a larger victory in the so-called war “for the hearts and minds” of people in the Islamic world and that lost opportunity would be a large cost and a disaster.
It is probably these enormous costs of failure in Iraq that explain why so few in Congress have joined the calls for a preset, timed withdrawal. Last Wednesday, the President laid out his strategy for victory in Iraq in a speech at the Naval Academy and accompanying 35-page white paper. It described a plan that has developed over the last two and half years since Saddam Hussein was overthrown. It is a plan that has resulted from trial and yes, many errors. It describes the strategy, the tactics, that I saw in Iraq two weeks ago and that I believe are creating progress there.
The response of leading Democrats to the president's proposal last week I thought was important and instructive. Most leading Democrats – and I include here the statements made by my colleagues Senators John Kerry and Jack Reed – did not call for an arbitrary time to withdrawal, but instead questioned some of the Administration's tactics and asked the Administration to go to the next level of detail on its proposals and plans.
The President’s description of our “clear, hold, and build” strategy for victory in Iraq and the tactical response of most Democrats suggests that there may be more agreement here than meets the eye and ear in the dueling partisan press conferences that characterize public discourse in Washington today. What I am suggesting here, as I listen and read the statements made, is that there is broad bipartisan agreement on the goals, on the strategic interest we have in the successful completion of our mission in Iraq; there are disagreements about tactics. Accepting this reality and the urgency of the moment in Iraq calls us, I believe, to remember the famous counsel of Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Republican of Michigan that “Politics must stop at the water’s edge.”
Vandenburg of course, played an instrument role in the post WWII period in building bipartisan support for Presidents Truman’s post WWII, early Cold War foreign policy. The full, actual statement of the imperative that Vandenburg stated, that politics must stop at the water’s edge, is altogether relevant to our current circumstances:
“To me, bipartisan foreign policy means a mutual effort under our indispensable two-party system, to unite our official voice at the water’s edge so that America speaks with maximum authority against those who would divide and conquer us and the free world.”
Those last words of Vandenberg’s exactly describe the goals and methods of the Islamist terrorists who attacked us on 9-11-01 and fight us in Iraq today. They aim to “divide and conquer us and the free world.” Vandenburg’s preceding words defining a bipartisan foreign policy should remind us of how much stronger we would be in this critical fight if we “seek national security ahead of partisan advantage.”
That is why I feel so strongly that it is time for us to set aside for now the arguments about why we got into Iraq so that we can work together on how we can get out best in victory and honor with the job done.
With the consequences of victory or defeat in Iraq so large for our future safety, and liberty; and with the lives of 160,000 Americans in uniform on the line there everyday, it is urgent that all of us who want to complete our mission successfully and do not favor an arbitrary timetable for withdrawal put the national goals we hold in common ahead of the party labels that too often divide us.
I recall here the wisdom of Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, who served our country during World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. Stimson said that sometimes the best way to make a person trustworthy is to trust him. There is wisdom there. It is time that America’s leaders, in the White House and Congress, Republicans and Democrats, who agree on our goals in Iraq but disagree on tactics to start trusting each other again so that we can work together again. The distrust is deep and I know it will be difficult to overcome, but history will judge us harshly if we do not stretch across the divide of distrust and join together to complete our mission successfully in Iraq.
It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.
It is time for Republicans in the White House and Congress who distrust Democrats to acknowledge that greater Democratic involvement and support in the war in Iraq is critical to rebuilding the support of the American people that is essential to our success in that war.
It is time for Americans and we their leaders to start working together again on the war on terrorism. To encourage that new American partnership, I propose that the President and the leadership of Congress establish a bipartisan Victory in Iraq Working Group, composed of members of both parties in Congress and high ranking national security officials of the Bush Administration. This group would meet regularly, I would hope at least weekly, to discuss conditions and progress on the ground in Iraq and ways to alter or improve our strategy for victory. It would carry forward the cooperative spirit of the Warner-Levin amendment which recently passed the Senate. In our form of government, it would be one of the closet structures we could create to replicate a unity government or a war cabinet that exists in other democratic systems.
I know that some will say that proposing a forum for bipartisan cooperation on the war is, in the current intensely partisan environment in Washington, naïve and impractical. Perhaps they are right. But what is not naïve or impractical is my conclusion that the return of such bipartisanship in the conduct of this war would raise popular support at home, encourage our brave troops in the field, discourage our vicious enemies, and strengthen the resolve of the Iraqi people and the hundreds of millions of others in the Islamic world who want a better way forward than the hatred and death Al Qaeda offers.
In 1941, Winston Churchill came to Rochester, New York and said:
“When great causes are on the move in the world… we learn that we are spirits, not animals, and that something is going on in space and time which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”
My friends, great causes are clearly on the move in the world today. We were attacked by Islamist terrorists – attacked here at home. The centers of American power, our great cities, were attacked. The main battleground in this war is now Iraq. So I would say, in Churchill’s phrase, that duty calls us now to take ourselves above the ordinary partisan debates of this capital city, to unite for victory, to walk the course together until our mission is completed, our security is protected, and the forces of freedom have once more emerged triumphant from the battlefields of power and of principle.
Now I don't really think that his comments cited in Genghis Conn's post were all that much different in meaning than these, were they? To me they seem to be almost identical.
Genghis Conn, Connecticut Local Politics, Hang On A Second, Friday September 15, 2006.
Remarks of Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment Forum on Next Steps for Successful Strategy in Iraq, December 6, 2005, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) Official US Senate Website