Senator Lieberman, This is Your War Too

Senator Lieberman just spent 10 days in the Middle East and still does not get it. He's penned an op-ed calling for more deployed American troops in Iraq.

It's a remarkable essay for just how anti-empirical it is and how he can so easily waft platitudes about America's engagement in the region after actually seeing the miserable results of more than three and half years of military occupation of Iraq by us.

In the very first paragraph, Lieberman writes:

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.

Many critics of this war -- including this blogger -- always worried that our engagement would trigger a regional conflagration and that removing Iran's "balancer" would have huge effects throughout the Middle East and fuel Iran's pretensions as a hegemonic force. Where is Lieberman's confession that he and others were warned of this and didn't see it coming?

And what really irritates is his depiction of the extremists, who he inappropriately ties to Iran. The extremists in many cases are angry Sunnis who want their place back in society, who despise Iran and now the Shiites as well as us.

Lieberman should have seen in Iraq that America is now supporting the guy Iran wants -- al-Maliki. Lieberman's entire depiction of the good and the bad in Iraq are ridiculous and remind one of Soviet era depictions of the enemy in Afghanistan.

Later in his esssay, Lieberman shifts the profile of his "thugs and extremists" to be those "who have the least interest in peace and reconciliation." Now, Iran seems to be out of the picture here -- though they were a primary driver of his fear-mongering at the start of the piece.

He suggests that:

The most pressing problem we face in Iraq is not an absence of Iraqi political will or American diplomatic initiative, both of which are increasing and improving; it is a lack of basic security. As long as insurgents and death squads terrorize Baghdad, Iraq's nascent democratic institutions cannot be expected to function, much less win the trust of the people.

What Lieberman doesn't understand is that his realization of the "security problem" is not new. Our forces have been struggling for a number of years now and not solving this problem. Our troops are considered by many in Iraq to be just another militia among many -- or to even be the primary cause of the insurgency for others. Senator Lieberman fails to deal with either of these impulses behind the violence.

And he seems to be advocating just starting from scratch. Just get the security problem fixed.

With what Senator Lieberman? Do you honestly believe that twenty thousand troops will matter in this mess?

Zbigniew Brzezinski -- who believes we should withdraw in order to trigger a round of stabilizing deal-making between the chief thugs inside Iraq -- suggested in January 2005 that it would take 500,000 troops to occupy and stabilize Iraq. After considering the crimes at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and the collapse of America's moral prestige, Brzezinski said that not even that number of troops might succeed.

So, what is Lieberman suggesting other than doubling up on an extremely bad bet he and others made on a war that should not have been fought? Lieberman, who is smart on so many other issues, has become utterly blind when it comes to sensible applications of military force and American influence.

Lieberman writes:

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.

Senator Lieberman, let their be no doubt that the outcome you fear was totally predictable -- and was triggered by you and the other enablers of this war. Where is your humility and your own ownership of the consequences of what you have unleashed? Where is your realistic answer to what must be done to establish a NEW equilibrium of interests in the region?

Where is the political and diplomatic aspects to your suggestion on what next should be done? Do you see this only in military terms -- if we just had a few more troops now?

Lieberman mentions a single colonel who ran up to him and said: "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."

Lieberman needed to talk to more colonels. I hear from a lot of them -- and from less decorated soldiers in the field. The views on this war are mixed and the morale among our soldiers low as it has taken the President years to finally see that victory was not ever achieved.

This is Bush's war. But it is Joseph Lieberman's too -- and every Member of the House of Representatives and Senate who don't have the ability to open their eyes and be square with the public that huge mistakes were made and that America's precipitous loss of influence in the world can't be easily fixed.

The first step though is assuring Americans that the same kind of reckless gamble that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Lieberman-types in Congress won't be made again.

But what does Lieberman want to do -- just pour more American dollars and American lives into the morass of Iraq.

-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note