Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why the "Fighting Them Over There" strategy may backfire

The Bush administration has floated so many differing reasons for invading Iraq, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction turned out to be an illusion spawned by lousy Western intelligence and Saddam’s bluffing (design to keep his enemies afraid of him). The idea that establishing a democratic government in Baghdad would magically transform the entire Middle East into a swarthier version of Minneapolis, appears to be foundering because democracy is incompatible with Arabic culture and because Iraqis seem more motivated by ancient sectarian hatreds than by national unity. Which leaves the weakest reason: that fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq keeps al-Qaeda operatives busy and unable to get on an airplane and come to the US. This argument assumes that the Islamic terrorists can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. After London and Madrid, its premises are more than suspect.

In the Washington Times, Arnaud de Borchgrave argues that, paradoxically, success in Iraq could actually compel al-Qaeda to attempt a WMD attack in the US.

Assuming the Bush administration is successful in midwifing democracy out of a near-civil war situation in Iraq, the WMD threat level will remain unchanged. High, that is.

Paradoxical though this may seem to Washington's armchair strategists, the defeat of the al Qaeda-Sunni insurgency in Iraq would actually heighten, not lessen, the danger of a September 11 CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) attack. Defeated by the U.S. in Afghanistan and again in Iraq, al Qaeda would have to conclude its strategy of forcing the U.S. into a humiliating, Vietnamlike retreat has failed.

Arabic-speaker Professor Gilles Kepel, one of France's leading experts on al Qaeda, published last week "Al Qaeda dans le Texte," an analysis of the public and (intercepted) private utterances of the two Z's -- Ayman al-Zawahri (Osama bin Laden's No. 2) and Abu Musab Zarqawi, al Qaeda's insurgency honcho in Iraq. Stripped if its complexities, al Qaeda's strategy, Mr. Kepel explains, is to defeat the U.S. in Iraq, use this victory to roll over traditional oil-rich regimes in the Gulf that are security wards of the U.S., and then focus on Israel. But there is now an obstacle even greater than the U.S. -- Iran. Tehran, as seen through Zawahri's geopolitical viewfinder, is already calling the shots in large parts of Iraq. Whether the U.S. stays or leaves Iraq, concludes Zawahri, it's still Iran's ballgame. Which brings al Qaeda back to its WMD-in-America strategy.

al-Qaeda’s desperation to score a major, devastating strike against the US, will grow even more fevered as it encounters setbacks throughout the Middle East. That desperation, and the high goal of topping 9/11, is likely to push the already fanatical associates of bin Laden to try for the ultimate blow to the US, a WMD attack. US awareness of the Islamist threat is likely the only thing that has prevented another al-Qaeda attack on US soil thus far. But the administration’s complete and willful failure to secure US borders or to truly reform the US intelligence apparatus (as oppose to handing out medals to those at the helm during the worst intelligence failures) should give Americans no illusions about how safe the US actually is.


At 1:43 PM , Anonymous perroazul del norte said...

The idiot prince and his advisors(controllers?) really got us into a hell of a mess. The invasion and the overthrow of Sadaam were reasonable; what was truly stupid was the idea that Iraq was ripe for western-style liberal democracy. I'm sure the germ of this idea certainly did not originate with GWB, because, as Orwell said: some ideas are so foolish only an intellectual could believe them.


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