Event Summary-Winning the War in Iraq: A Strategy for Success on the Battlefront and the Homefront

April 26, 2004

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) said today that the United States’ success in Iraq could be threatened by “the hyper-politics of a Presidential campaign” and he proposed a Bipartisan Congressional Consultation and Cooperation Council on Iraq that would meet regularly with the President and his war cabinet on developments and decisions in Iraq, and visit with allies in order to show American solidarity for the Iraqi mission.

“Politics must stop at the water’s edge,” said Lieberman, who delivered his remarks at the Brookings Institution as part of a Saban Center Leadership Forum. “The homefront affects the battlefront?Today, I am pleading with leaders of both political parties, with the Administration and the Congress to stop the bickering, to overcome the mistrust, to appreciate how congruent our current aspirations in Iraq, and to work together to achieve them.”

Lieberman reaffirmed his support of the decision to go to war in Iraq and maintained that failure to bring stability to the region could create an “Iraqi domino” that would threaten democratic hopes throughout the Middle East. He expressed concern that the ongoing presidential race coincides with “fateful and perilous” months that will determine the success of United States operations in Iraq and the country’s political future, and he called for a “bipartisan political truce” during the important upcoming months.

Lieberman said that partisan bickering about the situation in Iraq threatened our success in the region, which would “gravely endanger American security” and “the safety of our children’s future.”

Although Lieberman made it clear that he was not calling for an end to political dissent and debate, he said “partisan politics-as-usual has consequences. It encourages our enemies to believe they are succeeding in their attempts to influence our policy?We have to try to separate our policy in Iraq from the reflexive back and forth of the political campaign. Shame on us if we don’t try.”

Following his remarks, Lieberman participated in a panel discussion with Brookings Senior Fellows James B. Steinberg, Kenneth M. Pollack, and Michael E. O’Hanlon to discuss the ongoing political and military situation in Iraq, including the June 30 deadline for an interim Iraqi government.

“It’s a catch-22,” Pollack said. “On the one hand, June 30 was a date created back in November when there was a process to create a new Iraqi interim government?That process is gone?On the other hand, June 30 is a date that many Iraqis have invested a lot of their emotion in. Doing away with it is not a great option either.”

Lieberman said he supports the June 30 deadline despite the ongoing violence that threatens to create a rough transfer of authority. “It keeps the promise we made,” he said.

O’Hanlon said that the heightened violence in Iraq in recent weeks couldn’t have come at a worse time, suggesting that the recent combat was a symbolic assault against U.S. reconstruction efforts and the June 30 transfer of authority. However, he cautioned against a massive offensive in Fallujah, where U.S. forces have encountered strong resistance from Iraqi insurgents.

“Is it worth the huge public relations cost you’re going to pay?” O’Hanlon asked, adding that such a military move would make many Iraqis view U.S. efforts as “an American colonization of the country.”

Lieberman also said that the nomination of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte to replace Paul Bremer as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq would “move smoothly and quickly through the Senate.”