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A: I think the most compelling case is that it is important for America. Our strategic interests are directly linked to the outcome of what the Iraqi people do there and what we allow them to do, because if we don’t, if we don’t bring about a successful outcome, we will leave behind a haven for al Qaeda and those affiliated with them. We will leave behind a region that is unstable, where Iran thinks it can impose its will. Where outside state actors become involved in the outcome in Iraq because of the power void, and it is unstable.

Our interests are directly linked, and it is incredibly important, the largest, I think the more overarching argument to why it is important to America is victory or defeat in the eyes of al Qaeda. If al Qaeda thinks they have won in Iraq, that will be a propaganda bonanza for them and embolden them for years and years to come.

People tell me all the time, “American soldiers are creating more terrorists.” In some ways, sure, our president aggravates a lot of insurgents in Iraq. But you don’t think our defeat would embolden them even more and create even more of a problem?

So, that, for me, is the big prize in this. It is a war of perception, and how would this war be perceived by our enemies and by our public. Because … history will judge us, not on when we leave, but on what we leave behind. …

Q: Are you still in contact with the soldiers that are in Iraq right now?

A: Oh, absolutely, I am in touch with soldiers in Iraq and in touch with Iraqi interpreters … that we had, and I get fairly regular updates and, actually, because of the position I am in now, I get a lot of unsolicited e-mails from troops over there, saying, “Thanks for what you guys are doing” and “Here is my experience that backs up what you are saying 100 percent.” So I have heard more and more from the troops than I would have otherwise, and it has all been encouraging, and it all reinforces the principle that we have been talking about and shows that, in fact, things are improving. So we see our work as nothing but an extension of our service and nothing but our opportunity to have the backs of the guys that are still there. …

What we want to do is set the conditions for a fair reception for what [Gen. Petraeus] reports, and that is what we are trying to do. And then beyond that, we are going to continue to make sure that our voice is heard in the debate.