Sunday, August 31, 2003

If we are to avoid a debate over who "lost" Iraq, we must act urgently to transform our military success into political victory.

We fought a just war in Iraq to end the threat posed by a dictator with a record of aggression against his people and his neighbors and a proven willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against both.

Iraq's transformation into a progressive Arab state could set the region that produced Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and al Qaeda on a new course in which democratic expression and economic prosperity, rather than a radicalizing mix of humiliation, poverty and repression, define a modernity in the Muslim world that does not express itself in ways that threaten its people or other nations. Conversely, a forced U.S. retreat from Iraq would be the most serious American defeat since Vietnam...

Having liberated Iraq, we must demonstrate the tangible benefits of occupation, which the Iraqi silent majority will tolerate if it successfully delivers services, law and order and a transition to Iraqi rule. The danger is that our failure to improve daily life, security, and Iraqis' participation in their own governance will erode their patience and fuel insurrection.

We do not have time to spare. If we do not meaningfully improve services and security in Iraq over the next few months, it may be too late. We will risk an irreversible loss of Iraqi confidence and reinforce the efforts of extremists who seek our defeat and threaten Iraq's democratic future.

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