Thursday, February 22, 2007

Safe European Homes

Yesterday at The Road to Surfdom (where I like to put on a fake Australian accent, use the letter "s" instead of the new-fangled "z" and add an extra "u" to words like "colour"), my co-blogger Ken Lovell made an interesting observation after highlighting this quote from Dick Cheney:

"We know that if we leave Iraq before the mission is completed, the enemy is going to come after us," Cheney said.

"We want to complete the mission, we want to get it done right, and we want to return with honor," said Cheney....

The problem raised by Lovell is one of potential "catastrophic success." To paraphrase Lovell: If we assume that the enemy is poised and ready for a road trip to these shores, what would "the enemy" do if we actually completed the mission as Cheney suggests?

Expanding the hypothetical: Let's say that the surge succeeds in ways that not even the big dreamers comprising the Victory Caucus could imagine - such that Iraqi forces are soon able to police Iraq's territory, seal the borders and prevent an influx of jihadis. Further, that a political solution is reached, violence abated, normalcy returned to Iraq and American forces can withdraw - safe in the knowledge that the mission is complete, and with all the confetti and tri-color bunting that goes along with unmitigated victory and honour.

What would the enemy do next? Would they throw in the towel, completely disemboldened by the overwhelming force of our victory?

I think that's unlikely. Rather, wouldn't "the enemy" then come after us "over here" in the United States since we were no longer providing an attractive target in the more conveniently located Middle East? In that sense, isn't Cheney's warning actually the inverse: Beware American people, the faster we succeed in Iraq, the sooner we'll have to deal with an enemy that is no longer distracted by that shiny ball...of fire.

Fred Kaplan catches Bush and other high ranking officials touting the same contradictory storyline:

If we leave [Iraq] before the mission is complete, if we withdraw, the enemy will follow us home."

This was from a speech by George W. Bush in Lancaster, Pa., last Aug. 16. That's not so recent, but the comment was repeated just this month by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and by Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner; so someone up high still seems to think it's true or at least catchy.

Kaplan observes the obvious:

In fact, it makes no sense whatever. First, it assumes that "the enemy" in Iraq consists entirely of al-Qaida terrorists, when they comprise only a small segment of the forces attacking U.S. troops. Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias are not likely to "follow us home."

Second, if terrorists wanted to attack American territory again (and maybe they do), their ability to do so is unaffected by whether we stay in or pull out of Iraq. It's not as if they're all holed up in Baghdad and Anbar province, just waiting for the fighting to stop so they can climb out of their foxholes and go blow up New York. If al-Qaida is a global network, its agents can fight in both places.

True. But even assuming, ex arguendo, that al-Qaeda is distracted in Iraq (not altogether outlandish, if overly simplistic), their attention would be freed up regardless of the manner of our withdrawal: be it in victory or stalemate. What's worse, when those al-Qaeda types do eventually depart from Iraq (actually, some already have), they will have mastered a rather pernicious skill-set including, but certainly not limited to, the preparation and use of various explosive devices, as well as the formation and maintenance of networking groups from the ranks of Jihad University's alumni.

It should be pointed out that, regardless of our irresistibly alluring presence in Iraq, some of the faculty from the Baghdad branch of Jihad University have been known to visit other locales to teach their courses:

[American intelligence and counterterrorism officials] said dozens of seasoned fighters were moving between Pakistan and Iraq, apparently engaging in an “exchange of best practices” for attacking American forces.

Over the past year, insurgent tactics from Iraq have migrated to Afghanistan, where suicide bombings have increased fivefold and roadside bomb attacks have doubled.

Back to Kaplan, who comments on the morally dubious intersection of this opportunism and fearmongering:

Third, this is a hell of a thing [for Bush] say in front of the allies. It's a crudely selfish message, suggesting that we're getting a lot of people killed over there in order that nobody gets killed back here. What leader of a beleaguered nation, reading this remark, would seek America's protection?

While it's true that some leaders in allied, or potentially allied, nations might be put off by this message, I can think of one audience for which it would have a more visceral impact. You know, the actual Iraqis whose nation we continue to turn into a nightmarish landscape of Hieronymus Bosch-like carnage and bedlam all so that al-Qaeda could be distracted for a little while. This Iraqi blogger's words are haunting (h/t TCR):

Back to Bush. There was one sentence in what he said that really provoked me and made me feel disgusted. I was about to throw the ash tray at the TV when he said "to win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy." how dare he say that? He brought these enemies to our country and now he wants to fight them there? to keep Americans safe?!! Is it on the expense of innocent people?! Is it on the expense of destroying and dividing an entire country to make Americans safe?! I consider every American supporting him in that is selfish and mean and blood thirsty. Think of the bread you are eating and compare it to the blood-mixed bread Iraqis are eating. Think of the children crying when they hear an explosion. Think of the pregnant who lost their babies because they were unable to reach the hospital. Think of those deprived from their education. All of this is happening because his majesty believes in "taking the fight to the enemy" so that you become safe and we become the bait in which he could catch "terrorists" with.

Given the uncomfortable feelings this account invokes, I'd say it's a case for Mark Kilmer and those enterprising detectives over at RedState. Because, as Kilmer might say:

To accept that these are the words of an actual anonymous Iraqi blogger, requires a profound leap a faith. You must believe that every lefty preconception about the war and its aftermath turned out to be true. You must believe that despite the appreciation of such Iraqis as Omar and Mohammed Fahdil of Iraq the Model, some Iraqis might actually resent the honor of becoming bait to lure the terrorists away from the homeland.

It has to be.

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