During Wednesday's Senate debate, many senators argued that a troop withdrawal is needed because American troops have no business fighting in another country's civil war. Nice sound bite, but Americans should be clear that this is not a civil war with two sides fighting on a battlefield. It is a war in which terrorists from various factions are waging war against civilized society, using violence and intimidation to sabotage efforts to stabilize and secure Iraqi daily life.
If the ugly tactics of purposefully killing innocent civilians prevail, then those tactics will spread beyond Iraq's borders. As McCain noted in prepared remarks on July 10, if al-Qaida insurgents "defeat the United States in Iraq, they will believe that anything is possible, that history is on their side, that they really can bring their terrible rule to lands the world over."
And: "The terrorists are in the war to win it. The question is: Are we?"
The answer, judging by this week's debate in the Senate, is: not exactly. Thankfully, there are still enough (mostly Republican) senators to block bills to start pulling out U.S. troops. With more than 3,600 U.S. troops killed in Iraq, many Americans just want this war to go away. That's a natural desire, but it ignores the price that American troops will have to pay if U.S. troops again are called to arms.
For all the mistakes that have been made, the Iraq war effort today benefits from the new Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy, committed U.S. troops and Iraqis who sense a final chance to grab the brass ring of normalcy. While Iraqi politicians are failing, many Iraqi people are risking their lives to bring about change. This moment should not be sacrificed because American voters and politicians are tired of the war -- not when those at the center of this storm believe they can make it work.