Harry Reid’s candor has sparked the debate the country needed, and OpinionJournal provides an excellent summary of the stakes this morning:
Mr. Reid’s strategy of withdrawal will only serve to enlarge the security vacuum in which Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents have thrived. That’s also true of what an American withdrawal will mean for the broader Middle East. Mr. Reid says that by withdrawing from Iraq we will be better able to take on al Qaeda and a nuclear Iran. But the reality (to use Mr. Reid’s new favorite word) is that we are fighting al Qaeda in Iraq, and if we lose there we will only make it harder to prevail in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Countries do not usually win wars by losing their biggest battles.
As for Iran, Mr. Reid’s strategy of defeat would guarantee that the radical mullahs of Tehran have more influence in Baghdad than the moderate Shiites of Najaf. It would also make the mullahs even more confident that they can build a bomb with impunity and no fear of any Western response.
The stakes in Iraq are about the future of the entire Middle East–and of our inevitable involvement in it. In calling for withdrawal, Mr. Reid and his allies, just as with Vietnam, may think they are merely following polls that show the public is unhappy with the war. Yet Americans will come to dislike a humiliation and its aftermath even more, especially as they realize that a withdrawal from Iraq now will only make it harder to stabilize the region and defeat Islamist radicals. And they will like it even less should we be required to re-enter the country someday under far worse circumstances.
This is the outcome toward which the “lost” Democrats and Harry Reid are heading, and for which they will be responsible if it occurs. The alternative is to fight for a stable Iraqi government that can control the country and keep it together in a federal, democratic system. As long as such an outcome is within reach, it is our responsibility to achieve it.