Friday, August 11, 2006

Bin Laden: With Adversaries Like These....

Well, anyone who voted against Joe Lieberman because they thought he was too close to President Bush, and too supportive of his many disastrous policies, must be feeling more than vindicated today. Lieberman, in lock-step with the GOP, has been issuing misleading statements in the aftermath of the foiled terrorist plot in Britain in a manner designed to conflate al-Qaeda with the utterly counter-productive war in Iraq.

Ned Lamont correctly observed that Lieberman adopted almost the exact rhetoric of none other than Dick "Perpetual Last Throes" Cheney. The guy with the 28% approval ratings - whose credibility is so low that even that number looks impressive. An interesting choice of role models for Lieberman, though it is consistent with his daft political touch.

As prakitke noted, Rudy Giuliani, Charles Krauthammer and many others are getting in on the action, trying to claim that the Iraq War represented an attempt to go on the "offense" against al-Qaeda, and that withdrawing troops from Iraq over the next year (as Lamont has favored) is an indication of unwillingness to fight al-Qaeda and their like-minded imitators.

Of course, this is spectacularly wrong. The war in Iraq has accomplished the opposite of showing determination to pursue and disrupt al-Qaeda. It is no secret that Bin Laden hoped to provoke an over-reaction by the US government, leading us into a protracted, excessive and aimless military conflict that would chew up assets, drain economic resources and tie down our military in an endless quagmire all the while providing a free, 24/7 satellite TV broadcast recruitment video for al-Qaeda to use to its benefit. Bin Laden thought that such an American blunder would occur in Afghanistan, but we averted that trap. The tragedy is, we then stepped into Iraq and pointed the gun squarely at Uncle Sam's boot and emptied the entire clip.

Cheney shows how little he understands about foreign policy (or how utterly dishonest he is) in his critique of the Democrats and Ned Lamont:
Mr. Cheney, in an interview with reporters on Wednesday, said that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups were counting on Americans to adopt a weaker military posture, and that Mr. Lamont's victory indicated that "the dominant view of the Democratic Party" favored that weaker approach.
This is exactly the opposite of what al-Qaeda wants. By and large, terrorists thrive when we adopt a heavy-handed military posture. There are some exceptions, like Afghanistan, where limited military force is necessary to destroy safe havens, training grounds and logistical centers. But those are, as I mentioned, exceptions. The war in Iraq, on the other hand, accomplished none of that - because those conditions did not exist in Iraq before the invasion.

As an unfortunate gift to Bin Laden, the Iraq war served to create a terrorist infrastructure and training ground where none existed before, and has been an invaluable asset to al-Qaeda from a PR perspective. We have done harm to our image in ways that al-Qaeda never could. But, Cheney would have us believe that al-Qaeda is worried that we're going to stop launching similar counter-productive, costly and futile military misadventures. Yeah, terrified I'm sure.

In the midst of this swirling whirlwind of misinformation, I thought it would be a good time to replay some of the findings of a survey of national security and counter terrorism experts that I posted about last month. Foreign Policy magazine, together with the Center for American Progress, conducted a survey of over 100 national security experts and terrorism analysts asking questions related to the struggle against terrorism and the Iraq war. The results are as follows [emph. mine]:

The United States is losing its fight against terrorism and the Iraq war is the biggest reason why, more than eight of ten American terrorism and national security experts concluded in a poll released yesterday. [...]

Asked whether the United States is "winning the war on terror," 84 percent said no and 13 percent answered yes. Asked whether the war in Iraq is helping or hurting the global antiterrorism campaign, 87 percent answered that it was undermining those efforts.

But Lamont's opposition to that war is something al-Qaeda wants. Michael Scheuer gives a re-cap of some of the particulars:

One participant in the survey, a former CIA official who described himself as a conservative Republican, said the war in Iraq has provided global terrorist groups with a recruiting bonanza, a valuable training ground and a strategic beachhead at the crossroads of the oil-rich Persian Gulf and Turkey, the traditional land bridge linking the Middle East to Europe.

"The war in Iraq broke our back in the war on terror," said the former official, Michael Scheuer, the author of Imperial Hubris, a popular book highly critical of the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts. "It has made everything more difficult and the threat more existential."

Yeah, I could see why al-Qaeda was so distressed that we went on the "offense" in Iraq. Bin Laden must be so very relieved that Ned Lamont was elected. I mean, someone like Ned Lamont, unlike Lieberman, would never endorse a military action like the war in Iraq. And we know how badly that worked out for al-Qaeda.

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