Monday, October 25, 2004
Now I Get It
In the past week the Bush administration's Iraq/War on Terror has made sense to me. It took the unique phrasing of W's speeches--e.g., "Where does the senator think [al-Zarqawi]'d be? Opening a small business?"--for me to finally get it.
By attacking Iraq, the administration is fusing anti-American and pro-Islamic sentiment in such a way as to draw Al-Qaeda to into Iraq in order to divert Al-Qaeda's resources from planning against the United States. It doesn't matter whether Al-Qaeda ever had connections with Iraq, the U.S. was going to force Al-Qaeda to make a strategic decision: to focus solely on attacking the U.S. in the U.S., or attack American forces in the Middle East to thwart a democratic Iraqi regime. If they focus solely on the U.S., other Islamic interests in the Middle East suffer, including the disrespect of having the infidels on their holy lands; if they defend Iraq, then they divert resources from direct attacks on the U.S.
At one level, this is a pretty clever plan. Essentially, the U.S. uses its military as a decoy, drawing fire from the enemy so that everyone else back home can go along shopping and blogging without fearing a huge attack. If Iraq ends up democratic, great. But, it doesn't matter because the war uses up resources at Al-Qaeda's disposal, which may be diminishing through other global efforts (e.g., freezing accounts, anti-money laundering operations). It is a war of attrition, modeled after the Cold War--as the administration has been outlining--in which we count on our economic superiority and "will to win" to outlast the terrorists.
The flaw in the logic is that it assumes Al-Qaeda cannot (a) engage us in Iraq and within our borders simultaneously and (b) continue to raise sufficient funds to meet its objectives. That Al-Qaeda has not attacked within our borders since 9/11 is not evidence that they cannot attack again. It was 8 years between the first WTC bombing and 9/11. Globally, it was about 5 years between the first WTC and the embassy bombings in Africa; a year later they hit the USS Cole. They are patient and opportunistic, and it is unlikely that Operation Iraqi Freedom will make them impatient and less opportunistic. And with oil in the $50+ price range, plentiful poppy fields, antipathy toward America, and sufficient black market experience, it'll be a while before Al-Qaeda runs short of funds.
Finally, it is a less than honest or effective way to use our military, to treat them as RPG-fodder so we can shop online in peace.
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