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July 17, 2007



So is it just stupid to think that our ongoing involvement in Iraq is a primary recruiting and motivational tool for Al Qaeda?

Color me stupid.


So let me get this straight. We're keeping our troops in Iraq to discourage terrorism, and yet terrorism is actually gaining traction and strength. Which means that the solution is surely to send more troops or keep the troops there longer. Hmmm... that makes sense. Though I do have one question. Is that policy falsifiable? I mean, if terrorism started to decrease, then that would mean that our strategy is working, right?, and that we should keep our troops there longer or send more troops there to accelerate the success. But if terrorism is increasing and gaining strength, well surely we must oppose that with force, ie more troops for longer duration. In either case, the clear solution is send more troops to Iraq. Now, what sort of data would show that this policy is in fact wrong and not working as intended? I eagerly await your response.

Nathan Smith

Oh, there's certainly room for intelligent disagreement with the Republicans' position here. Maybe I would disagree with it myself. In "Iraq and the Police Principle" -- http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=092205E -- I was making an argument two years ago that we had to arrange some sort of exit from Iraq in order to preserve the generalized credible threat of American power, and thereby to make the precedent set by the overthrowing of Saddam's tyranny more effective.

But that's not what the Democrats are arguing. They're not saying anything about what we should do; they're just playing a blame game.

Of course al-Qaeda is using our involvement in Iraq as a recruiting tool. Al-Qaeda will use *whatever we do* as a recruiting tool. If we adopt an activist foreign policy they'll call that foreign policy oppression or aggression or whatever and use that to recruit; if we had adopted a more passive approach they'd be saying we can be defeated because we're cowardly. That's what they did say in the Clinton years. Remember that Iraq was a cause celebre before we invaded it. Back then, they blamed us for the sanctions. If we'd lifted the sanctions, they would have used that as more evidence that we can be beaten.

You have to look at the counter-factual as a whole. The muj fighters in Afghanistan brought down the Soviet Union. They thought America, the soft superpower, was an easier target. Little did they know. I'll bet if bin Laden had it to do over again, he would never have attacked the WTC.


Well, he might too.

The WTC attacks were wildly unpopular and did terrible damage to Al Qaeda's moral standing in the eyes of their traditional supporters. Further, being thrown out of Afghanistan was humiliating. If things had stopped there, it seems highly doubtful that they would ever have recovered.

But then, Iraq (as it has gone) has provided a new cause and washed away the memory of the WTC attacks. Al Qaeda is as powerful as it has ever been and the US' international standing has fallen precipitously. They've at least broken even and possibly gained in aggregate.

I would say that if bin Laden had seen one year into the future, he would either have not attacked or attacked only the Pentagon. If he'd seen five years, I think he would add the WTC towers back in.

There's more I could say regarding other claims, but that's the basic argument.

As for Dems merely playing the blame game, this is certainly true to a major extent. That said, I don't see any of that in the quoted blurb. Really, I don't see a lot of anything from either party. The Dems just want us "out" without specifying what else we'd do to reduce the scale of the ensuing chaos, while the GOP seems to want to say "no congressional micromanagement" Ultimately the Dems are right when they say that the Bush Administration is in the best place to come up with detailed plans. Forcing them to do so seems like a good idea. It would be nice to have plans for things.

Of course, the cynical thing to do would be to oppose the war ineffectually so it festers until next year's election.

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