Joe Lieberman begins his op-ed argument for increased bellicosity with this:
I've just spent 10 days traveling in the Middle East and speaking to leaders there, all of which has made one thing clearer to me than ever: While we are naturally focused on Iraq, a larger war is emerging. On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States. Iraq is the most deadly battlefield on which that conflict is being fought. How we end the struggle there will affect not only the region but the worldwide war against the extremists who attacked us on Sept. 11, 2001. (emphasis mine)
This is not a sound foreign policy. It isn't a policy at all. It's a crusade. But perhaps Joe has a strategy for his crusade?
The American people are justifiably frustrated by the lack of progress, and the price paid by our heroic troops and their families has been heavy. But what is needed now, especially in Washington and Baghdad, is not despair but decisive action -- and soon.
Wasn't decisive action taken by the president in March 2003? Come on Joe, give me something substantive.
On this point, let 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.
Al-Qaeda? Does Joe the foreign policy genius even realize that there is an insurrgency? That there are militias? That the insurgency and the militias are not organized around al-Qaeda but aligned with the Sunnis and Shiites?
To turn around the crisis we need to send more American troops while we also train more Iraqi troops and strengthen the moderate political forces in the national government. After speaking with our military commanders and soldiers there, I strongly believe that additional U.S. troops must be deployed to Baghdad and Anbar province -- an increase that will at last allow us to establish security throughout the Iraqi capital, hold critical central neighborhoods in the city, clamp down on the insurgency and defeat al-Qaeda in that province.
Why wasn't this magic bullet put in the breach months ago? Why is everything so critical now? Why was the president saying "stay the course" until the 2006 midterm elections? Why is he receptive to the surge now? Joe has the answer.
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.
And what is that mission?
The addition of more troops must be linked to a comprehensive new military, political and economic strategy that provides security for the population so that training of Iraqi troops and the development of a democratic government can move forward.
In particular we must provide the vital breathing space for moderate Shiites and Sunnis to turn back the radicals in their communities. There are Iraqi political leaders who understand their responsibility to do this. In Anbar province we have made encouraging progress in winning over local Sunni tribal leaders in the fight against al-Qaeda and other terrorists. With more troops to support them, our forces in Anbar and their Sunni allies can achieve a major victory over al-Qaeda.
At least that is substantive. But I don't understand why he insists on repeatedly bringing up al-Qaeda. 7 times, in fact (4 mentions of "Sunni" and 3 mentions of "Shiite"). That's because he sees no important differences between these groups. There are only moderates and extremists. And force is the only way to deal with extremists.
I'm highly skeptical that simply adding more troops to Iraq will fix anything. In fact, I don't think it will change anything other than providing more targets to the "extremists" in Iraq. But the main reason I dismiss this talk of "surging" is because the idea stems ultimately from the same people who thought invading Iraq in the first place was a good idea. They were wrong then and have not admitted as such; why should we trust them again? The premises of invading Iraq--spreading democracy to the Middle East in a neoconservative fantasy--are bankrupt. It's that simple. So when Joe puts forward his support for the surge and then dumbs down the war to "moderates" vs. "extremists" he is demonstrating to me that he has no grasp of the situation in Iraq, no matter how many days he's spent there or how many officiers he's talked to. Iraq is in a civil war that might become a regional war. But that is a far cry from being "the central front in the global and regional war against Islamic extremism." This fatal misunderstanding only provides cover for George Bush's failure but exonerates the intellectual hubris of the neocons who initiated the thing. That alone makes Joe Lieberman unreliable as a foreign policy analyst.