There is an elephant in the room when it comes to the recent controversy over Joe Lieberman’s public proclamations of support for the war in Iraq and for George Bush’s strategy. Lieberman has recently written:

“What a colossal mistake it would be for America’s bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory”

and he has insisted:

“History will judge us harshly if we do not stretch across the divide of distrust to join together to complete our mission successfully in Iraq,”

But he has said this in the context of rejecting a timetable for withdrawal, and insisting our strategy in Iraq is working:

Does America have a good plan…a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration’s recent use of the banner “clear, hold and build” accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

These sentiments of Lieberman’s are beyond off-message. They represent a seeming disconnect from reality. When Republicans express these sentiments we can excuse them as apologists who feel the need to defend the Bush administration. They may mouth these talking points publicly, but we doubt many of them really believe things in Iraq are on track.

But why would Lieberman spout disingenuous GOP talking points? To me, the answer lies in Lieberman’s concern for Israel’s security.

Here is how Lieberman describes the stakes in Iraq:

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

If you set aside the numerous inaccuracies in this characterization of the resistance in Iraq, you are left with an assertion that a civil war in Iraq will lead to fanatical war-making on America. But this is ridiculous. The pilots of 9/11 trained in Florida and Arizona, not in Kandahar. Terrorists exploit the freedoms and openness of Western societies. They do not need a haven for hatching their deadly plans. I think Lieberman is concerned about something entirely different.

If the U.S. population forces a withdrawal from Iraq it will lead to a more general aversion for basing our troops throughout the Arab peninsula. And that could represent a long-term threat to Israel’s security.

Now, I have no problem with an American politician having serious concerns for the security of Israel. Israel is an ally of America and their security is important component of our overall foreign policy. What I have a problem with is the idea that we should remain in Iraq pursuing a losing strategy, hold no one accountable, make no milestones or timetables, give hopelessly pollyannish assessments of our progress, and tell the American people that this catastrophe is necessary to avoid fanatical war-making on our homeland. If anything, our failing strategy is making domestic terror attacks more likely as the number of people that long to exact retribution on America increases exponentially.

I think Lieberman is ignoring the heightened risks to America because he is concerned that a loss of will in Iraq will lead to a larger loss of will for a large military presence in the region. And the only plausible reason Lieberman has to trade heightened domestic risk for the maintenence of our military presence in the region is that he is putting the security of Israel over the security of the United States.

Lieberman probably never envisioned the possibility of defeat in Iraq when he recommended an invasion:

He played a leading role in helping pass the Persian Gulf War resolution in January 1991, after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and he called for a “final victory” over Hussein.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, Lieberman strongly backed Bush’s call for a war against terrorism in Afghanistan. Later that year, he was one of 10 lawmakers who signed a letter urging Bush to target Iraq next.

Lieberman needs to check his priorities. We can do a lot better job of assuring Israel’s security than by losing a war, weakening our military, weakening our economy, losing our credibility and moral standing, and ignoring the peace process. It is precisely our failures that are making the American people reject the kind of foreign policy and military basing that Lieberman so values. He’s got it all wrong.

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