A reader writes:

If the Obama campaign is allowed to frame the Iraq debate about the initial decision to go to war, then the campaign never has to deal with what actually matters to U.S. security today -- how best should the country handle the situation on the ground now?  Just as McCain should be forced to answer what are the consequences of a prolonged US presence in Iraq, Obama should be forced to answer what are the consequences of rapid withdrawal.  And both must justify to the public their rationale and forward planning well beyond "staying for 100 years" vs. "engage in regional diplomacy."

Let's be clear-eyed about this, as opposed to merely rhetorical.  The multiple players with interests at stake in Iraq mean that, absent a either a US presence or a stable Iraqi governmental authority that is backed by force, whether American, UN, NATO or otherwise, Iraq is highly likely to descend into a much more fertile ground for a civil war pitting Sunni radical against both Sunni moderate and all Shia. How best would either candidate handle a situation whereby US departure equates to Al Qaeda in Iraq versus the nascent Iraqi government versus Iran versus Kurdistan versus Turkey versus, potentially, the Persian Gulf Sunni states with the most to lose from regional instability? (Kuwait, Saudi, UAE, and Oman). Obama was certainly right about the wrong decision to go to war. But that decision didn't simply stop history, it created new realities in the region that actually do matter to US national security - both economic and political. My problem with Obama's "Iraq policy" is that it appears to advocate rapid withdrawal without regard for the consequences. McCain, at the very least, has made the honest acknowledgement that there are consequences of both staying longer or withdrawing rapidly, and he's made decision that staying longer carries less risk than hasty withdrawal.  McCain is at least attempting to focus the debate on where it should be - on what matters tomorrow.  How much longer will you keep letting Obama slide by taking credit only for his correct decision so many yesterdays ago?

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