Maybe It's Time For Lieberman To Cross The Aisle

The more I hear from and about Joe Lieberman, the more I am convinced that he now resides in the wrong party. With the large leftwards shift in the Democratic Party, Lieberman and his beliefs seem to have been abandoned by them. The first big indication of that was when the Democratic Party endorsed and supported his challenger in the Connecticut state primary because Lieberman had the gall to support the war in Iraq. They showed him that there's no room in the party for a moderate Democrat like him.

His latest piece in the Wall Street Journal's OnlineJournal about what he saw in Iraq during his last visit has many of the lefty bloggers calling for his resignation because he's somehow a traitor to the party of surrender.

Unlike Senator Harry Reid, Joe Lieberman understands what's at stake in Iraq and that the biggest mistake we could make is to abandon the Iraqi people during their time of need, to give up the fight against Al Qaeda.

In Baghdad, however, discussions with the talented Americans responsible for leading this fight are more balanced, more hopeful and, above all, more strategic in their focus--fixated not just on the headline or loss of the day, but on the larger stakes in this struggle, beginning with who our enemies are in Iraq. The officials I met in Baghdad said that 90% of suicide bombings in Iraq today are the work of non-Iraqi, al Qaeda terrorists. In fact, al Qaeda's leaders have repeatedly said that Iraq is the central front of their global war against us. That is why it is nonsensical for anyone to claim that the war in Iraq can be separated from the war against al Qaeda--and why a U.S. pullout, under fire, would represent an epic victory for al Qaeda, as significant as their attacks on 9/11.

Some of my colleagues in Washington claim we can fight al Qaeda in Iraq while disengaging from the sectarian violence there. Not so, say our commanders in Baghdad, who point out that the crux of al Qaeda's strategy is to spark Iraqi civil war.

The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces would not only throw open large parts of Iraq to domination by the radical regime in Tehran, it would also send an unmistakable message to the entire Middle East--from Lebanon to Gaza to the Persian Gulf where Iranian agents are threatening our allies--that Iran is ascendant there, and America is in retreat. One Arab leader told me during my trip that he is extremely concerned about Tehran's nuclear ambitions, but that he doubted America's staying power in the region and our political will to protect his country from Iranian retaliation over the long term. Abandoning Iraq now would substantiate precisely these gathering fears across the Middle East that the U.S. is becoming an unreliable ally.

That is why--as terrible as the continuing human cost of fighting this war in Iraq is--the human cost of losing it would be even greater.

Lieberman gets it, in some cases even better than many Republicans. He certainly understands why our remaining in Iraq is so important. I think I can better explain the last line of his I quoted by using the tagline from an old Fram Oil Filter TV ad from a few decades ago:

“You can pay me now. Or you can pay me later.”

I think the price to be paid to deal with Al Qaeda now will be magnitudes smaller than if we have to deal with a more powerful and emboldened Al Qaeda in the future if we let them win in Iraq by ceding it to them because our Democratic majority Congress was too partisan, too blind, or too stupid to see what the consequences would be.

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