Trends in Global Terrorism, Indeed

The revelation in the New York Times (may require registration) of remarks by people who have read the classified National Intelligence Estimate’s findings wasn’t much of a surprise. The Bush Administration’s policies toward the Middle East have not made the world safer. Quite the contrary.

On the one hand, we haven’t had any more attacks in the U.S. (although Spain, Britain, Germany, and, of course, Iraq have not been so fortunate), but on the other hand, the reach of the Islamist radicals is increasing and their networks are growing. And the invasion of Iraq is clearly a factor fueling that growth.

What to do? Well, first of all, let’s hope that the mistake isn’t repeated by invading additional countries (Iran, Syria). Second, it’s long past time to initiate a plausible and realistic plan for withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq. (No, I don’t know exactly what form that should take, but an indefinite stay clearly undercuts reasons for Iraqi factions to arrive at a modus vivendi.) Third, craft a withdrawal that won’t leave Iraq (notably western Iraq) as a vast training ground for al Qaeda, which seems a very real and serious possibility.

I shared a few thoughts on the issue in Reason earlier this year. (Scroll down to the third article.) As I noted,

6. If the U.S. were to withdraw tomorrow, the country would be plunged into a bloodbath. But if the U.S. does not make it clear that foreign forces will withdraw, it is unlikely that Iraqis will be able to unite to defeat the terrorists. The prospect of an indefinite substantial military presence in Iraq will provide a ready scapegoat for all of the country’s problems (including the havoc wreaked by the insurgency). Only the credible prospect of a departure is likely to bring the parties to the table to create a relatively (and I stress relatively) liberal and stable regime for Iraq. And even that might not suffice. The country could break apart. That might not be the worst outcome, but the fighting to determine the borders of the resulting states could be fierce.

6 Responses to “Trends in Global Terrorism, Indeed”

  1. Christopher Przywojski

    While I do agree that Iraq is being used as a reason to recruit more terrorists for Al-Qaeda and other groups, I do not believe it is going to make a difference if we were to leave Iraq. It is also unfair to claim that the situation in Iraq is doing more harm to the world without mentioning the good that has come from it. In addition, if Iraq is such a key reason for terrorist recruitment, then why did Al-Qaeda have the highest recruit rates in the 90s during the happy days of the Clinton era? What’s to suggest that, had we never gone into Iraq, there wouldn’t still be Al-Qaeda recruitment for a different reason, like cartoons? How are we supposed to fight a war on terror if everyone believes that it is counterproductive? Should we all convert to Islam in order to win this war? Should we take away the Jewish state and give it to the Palestinians? If the classified information that was leaked is so true, then why wasn’t all of it revealed? Perhaps it wouldn’t fit the agenda that the leaker had in mind? Perhaps it states other information that presents a more positive view on our war on terror. And why are we so quick in accepting the conclusion of the report when the same spy agencies that wrote the report are blamed for screwing up the Iraqi WMD’s report?
    The Bush administrations policy in the Middle East has not made the world safer, but the contrary? Where does such a claim come from? Documents recovered from Zarqawi show the opposite. That Al-Qaeda is losing the war. That the United States has made it more difficult for Al-Qaeda to operate. Perhaps the media could be to blame more for terrorists recruitment then the policies. After all, they have ‘uncovered’ all the ‘evils’ of the Bush administration and then use it to propagate their own agendas.
    I agree that there needs to be a better way to fight this war on terror, but leaving Iraq and hoping that the terrorists will just go away is ridiculous. Yes, it would be nice to have more of the world involved in our efforts, but unfortunately, everyone’s dependency on oil seems to keep countries from acting…i.e. China, Russia, France, and Germany. (remember oil-for-food?)

  2. Tom G. Palmer

    I’m certainly not opposed to tracking down and killing the leadership and the soldiers of al Qaeda. I think that our government could do it in a much more intelligent way. The invasion of Iraq had very bad consequences that they didn’t seem to consider, as we now see. That is but one of the reasons why Americans should conclude that it was not in their interests. Deciding that it was a mistake does not, of course, tell us what to do now, since we can’t go back in time. But the prospect of an indefinite military presence in Iraq seems to be seriously advancing the interests of al Qaeda. The reports that support among Iraq’s Sunni minority for the insurgents has gone from 14 percent to 75 percent should worry supporters of a continued military presence in Iraq. To support a military withdrawal is not the same as saying that there should be a mad rush for the exits. A set of goals could be set that would, when met, lead to draw downs of troops and military disengagement. Or dates could be fixed. All plans have advantages and disadvantages. But it seems that a good case can be made that it’s time that a choice be made among them. (Indeed, one could argue that it’s been time for such a choice for a long time.)

  3. Christopher Przywojski

    Well I do have to agree….I’ve heard some good ideas…one of which emphasizes the idea of ‘message’. What kind of message do we want to send to the Iraqi people? Since we’ve successfully toppled Suddam’s regime, it is now time to create a peace-keeping force. This sort of message has to be very loud and clear, so that there can be no mistake or misinterpretation. At the same time, there needs to be some way of transitioning the U.S. forces to U.N. forces led by other countries. Perhaps then, the message will be clear. We are not occupiers. We only want to help! At the same time, we can bring our troops home or keep them somewhere safer. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to pull all of our troops out of the Middle East as we need a deterrent on Iran from doing anything stupid, like invading Iraq or attacking Israel. I think it is very important to make Iraq our ally given it’s geographic location. We need to promote Democracy and Capitalism in that country so that, perhaps, other Muslim nations could see the benefits of those systems and perhaps start a greater movement in the Middle East to liberalize those countries, which I think, is the only way to defeat terrorism.

  4. “6. If the U.S. were to withdraw tomorrow, the country would be plunged into a bloodbath.”

    I must respectfully disagree. It is my opinion that a quick US withdrawal will probably bring a faster truce between the warring insurgents and the Iraqis.

    At the moment the US is seen by Muslims and most of the corrupt world as a colonial crusader that wants oversight and control of Iraqi oil. It is highly publicize by anti-American elements that US interest in Iraq is self serving. The US attempt to spread democracy is seen as a smoke screen to cover the takeover of Iraq’s only money maker.

    Introducing the idea of liberty to the region is noble and ambitious, but unattainable. How can liberty be advocated to the Arab-Muslim world when their next door neighbor, Western Europe,is becoming more and more less free. Great Britain is on the road to becoming a pseudo-Soviet police state. The French are not interested, if not hostile to individual liberty. And the rest are headed to financial ruin when entitlements from the state outweighs productivity. Even in Canada, the Canadian government is close to allowing Islamists to establish Sharia courts to judicate Islamic family law. Middle East Arabist and Islamists are taking their cue from these ill examples of the West.

    If Arabs and Muslims desire to establish democracy in their homelands, they do not need US military intervention. The concept of liberty is a natural sense ingrained in the human psyche. To be free, one must want to be free. Polls show that most Muslims admire the freedom of the US. However, in my opinion, they do not admire it enough to establish the same liberty for themselves. Anyway as long as oil is the only resource that produce wealth, Muslim dictators will not voluntarily give up their power just to satisfy the supposed desires of their citizens.

  5. To withdraw from Iraq is totally unaceptable.
    You claim that if US troops will withdraw the iraqis will somehow learn to live together.
    Really ?
    Saddam killed more 150 thousand Kurds in the 80s.
    The Turks massacred hundreds of thousands of armenians.
    The withdrawal is fair for people who just like to drink beer and watch videos without being bothered. But such policy is not humane.
    From the very moment US did destroy the iraqi state US is responsible for the lives of the people and just cannot withdraw leaving hundreds of thousands under the peril of being butchered.
    It is not fair.
    Bush might be bad but the policy of turning the backs to the problems is actually responsible for the holocaust in rwanda.
    During clinton time US looked the other way and one million died in Rwanda.
    Ã?Â??Ã?Â??merican left was happy.
    It was not disturbed with body bags coming from rwanda.
    Its ok.
    But is such policy humane ? Of course not.
    To look the other way while hundreds of thousands might be butchered is not right.
    You should look at the blogs real iraqis and listen to their concerns.