Yesterday, I wrote about the recent Prague Conference on Democracy and Security, focusing on the speech of President Bush. Another speech worthy of attention was given by Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, a man who, before our eyes, grows stronger as the going gets tougher. His keynote speech to the opening dinner was an easy occasion for platitudes. He might have heaped praise on Natan Sharansky and Václav Havel, topped it off with some bromides about freedom, and taken his bow to much applause. Instead, he plunged unflinchingly into the most difficult issue of the day, and threw down a rhetorical gauntlet to those demanding a quick U.S. exit from Iraq. Here is a key excerpt:
What is happening in the Middle East today is not simply a battle between the United States and its enemies in one particular country, but a much larger struggle between freedom and fear, in which Iraq happens to be the central front. On the one side of this conflict are the latest in a long line of totalitarians, a loose alliance of terrorists and tyrants every bit as fanatical as the fascists and communists with whom they share a hatred of America and the values for which it stands.
Terrorism is their preferred weapon, but it is not their ultimate aim. Their vision is far more ambitious and terrifying: a vision of hatred and conquest, in which billions of people fall under a jihadist jackboot of vicious and repressive rule. . . .
The outcome of the struggle in Iraq will go a long way toward determining whether our future in Europe, and America, and throughout much of the world belongs to these totalitarians, or to democrats. . . .
Iraq is about the survival and success of the very ideal of freedom not only in Iraq, but in Iran, and Syria, and the rest of that region, and in a very real way, in the rest of the world. . . .
Today, the choice we face is not simply whether we support the advance of democracy in the abstract, but at what cost we are willing to fight for it.
What is the response of the Pelosis and Reids and Murthas and Levins to this argument? Note that Lieberman claims nothing about whether we were right or wrong to invade Iraq in the first place. Grant for argument’s sake that it was a mistake to have gone in, that we should have chosen to fight these enemies on some other soil. That changes not a whit of what Lieberman says is at stake now. With what point in his chain of reasoning do they disagree? Perhaps they would say that he exaggerates the impact that defeat or surrender in Iraq would have on America’s domestic institutions. But that is a quibble. The point remains that it would do disastrous damage to the cause of the West. What is their answer?
In fact, we know their answer. It has been, in effect, to kick Lieberman out of their party, so that there is no one left within its ranks to raise such questions. So much the worse for them. For his part, unbeholden to the Democrats, Lieberman has emerged as one of the most eloquent leaders of what Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to call the “freedom party.” The Prague gathering, you might say, was its convention.
Tomorrow, one last report on some of the more interesting sessions in Prague.