September 19, 2008

Al Qaeda’s Defeat in Iraq

"Senator Barack Obama

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2008 3:41 PM
Comments
The war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq can plausibly be described as a distraction from the war against Al Qaeda. But the war against Al Qaeda in Iraq cannot possibly be accurately described as a distraction from the war against Al Qaeda.
Sure it can. For a start, al Qaeda in Iraq wasn't an issue until the war against Hussein. And al Qaeda made effective use of the invasion of Iraq to gain members and funds. As has been pointed out here before, they also seem to be using it as a training ground for new members and then returning them to places like Yemen, where they put that training to use.
If there had been no invasion of Iraq, it's unlikely that an al Qaeda in Iraq would ever have been a significant presence. In that sense, it has proved a distraction.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 19, 2008 4:05 pm
DPU: If there had been no invasion of Iraq, it's unlikely that an al Qaeda in Iraq would ever have been a significant presence.
We aren't in disagreement about that.
The US has fought at least two wars in Iraq recently. One against Saddam, and another against the various terrorists and insurgents. Just because these wars took place in the same country does not mean they are the same wars.
Like I said in the excerpt you provided, the war against Saddam can be described as a distraction from the war against Al Qaeda. But the war against Al Qaeda in Iraq cannot, by definition, be described as a distraction from the war against Al Qaeda.
That would be like saying fighting the Nazis in France was a distraction from the fighting the Nazis.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2008 4:19 pm
If there had been no invasion of Iraq, it's unlikely that an al Qaeda in Iraq would ever have been a significant presence.
Right. They would have instead gone to Afghanistan and would have instead been called Al Qaida in Afghanistan, and we'd be fighting these guys in the high mountain peaks of the Hindukush amongst their Taliban buddies, and in the Paki frontier provinces where they are virtually untouchable. Meaning they wouldn't have been DUCKS IN A BARRELL the way they were in Iraq. Instead, we invited them to a battlefied of our own choosing where there was nowhere for them to hide and surrounded by hostile shiaas, and that's were we killed them. Worked like a charm. Only a hopelessly blind partisan would deny the truth of this.
Right after 9/11, the naysayers liked to bemoan the fact that we couldn't hit back at Al Qaida because terrorists don't really have a country of their own. Well, we turned Iraq into their country, and that's where we hit them and essentially defeated them.
Posted by: carlos at September 19, 2008 7:55 pm
Michael, first thank you for your reporting.
Your new Blog name fits. I was going to suggest it.
Now that we are about to win in Iraq, the enemy has shifted away from there. They can't compete. Now they show up in other countries and try again.
What people keep forgetting is the Iraq war was also a STRATEGY to suck in as many terrorists as possible and kill them there, and not have to worry about a few hundred of them trying to penetrate our pretty weak defenses here. Seven years and counting. No major disaster here. Looks like a good strategy From my vantage point!
Afghanistan is one new focus just to stay alive.
This war is far from over. I think we will see a "Surge" in Afghanistan fairly soon. It won't be all Troops. I see where Texas A&M is supporting an Ag mission to help farmers improve food crop yields to get rid of poppy cultivation. Big step.
One thing that troubles me is that because most Americans have not contributed anything to this war effort that impacts the future of our country, they don't care, and don't understand the risks we face in the pretty near future.
We wimped out in Viet Nam and see where that got us? We were on the edge of winning and the faint of heart and liberal traitors sold us out. I was there, I know the truth.
Keep up the great work Michael.
Marc
Posted by: marc at September 19, 2008 8:50 pm
That would be like saying fighting the Nazis in France was a distraction from the fighting the Nazis.
That would be an accurate comparison if al Qaeda had conquered Iraq rather being a non-entity there prior to the invasion.
Rather than get caught up in allegory-bashing, however, maybe a better question would be whether al Qaeda's organization, funding, and recruitment efforts would be worse off if Iraq had not been invaded?
As al Qaeda has actually seemed to welcome the Iraq invasion as a recruitment, fundraiser, and training tool, and as Bin Laden, the mass murderer responsible for 9/11, is still at large, I'd argue that Iraq has quite definitely been a step backward. In that way, it has been a distraction and a sideshow.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 19, 2008 10:59 pm
DPU: That would be an accurate comparison if al Qaeda had conquered Iraq rather being a non-entity there prior to the invasion.
You don't seem to understand what I'm saying.
The US has fought more than one war in Iraq since 2003.
Let me put it this way. The war against Saddam in Iraq was a war of choice and arguably a distraction.
The war against Al Qaeda (etc.) in Iraq was not a war of choice and was not a distraction.
My parents, for example, opposed the war against Saddam in Iraq but support the war against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Others, like Andrew Sullivan, supported the war against Saddam in Iraq and oppose the war against Al Qaeda in Iraq. All tehse people correctly view the wars as separate. You should, too, if you want to understand my point.
When I say "The war against Al Qaeda in Iraq is not a distraction from the war against Al Qaeda" I mean exactly, precisely, what is written. I did not say "The war against Saddam in Iraq was not a distraction from the war against Al Qaeda."
If you view these separate wars that happen to take place in the same geographic location as a single war, you will continue to miss my point.
al Qaeda has actually seemed to welcome the Iraq invasion as a recruitment, fundraiser, and training tool,
That was true until it wasn't. It didn't work out very well for them in the end.
Therefore:
I'd argue that Iraq has quite definitely been a step backward.
I do not agree with your concluding statement.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2008 11:37 pm
This dispute is fascinating because it cuts directly into one of the left's cherished strategies since 9/11: the attempt to seal-off/firewall all legitimate terror-fighting to within the single nation-state of Afghanistan. The left has always been willing to throw hawks a bone (Afghanistan), since who cares about Afghanistan anyway. The hope was always that this would be sufficient for hawks and the offensive would be therefore contained.
Reading the comments from the left, if taken at face value you can't escape the conclusion that for some reason Al Qaeda ONLY "count" as true Al Qaeda when they are inside the boundary of Afghanistan. That efforts to fight/combat/disrupt Al Qaeda's efforts outside the boundary of Afghanistan are inherently illegitimate. And that nobody outside the boundary of Afghanistan has ever been or could possibly be a problem, a potential terror threat, a part of the Al Qaeda network.
Michael's post violates this Afghanistan-only philosophy which is why it cannot be left unrebutted.
Posted by: Sonic Charmer at September 20, 2008 6:44 am
Rubbish. Let's separate the false statements from the intellectual critique, though.
Posted by: glasnost at September 20, 2008 8:01 am
Glasnost - this is a quote from the NYTimes article you linked to, titled "Foreign Fighters in Iraq Are Tied to Allies of U.S."
BAGHDAD
Posted by: maryatexitzero at September 21, 2008 8:09 am
Glasnost,
Your own source noted that the number of troops in Afghanistan did not go down. My point was about net resources, not individual allocations.
It should be obvious, but apparently it isn't, that I did not mean that no individuals or units moved from Afghanistan to Iraq. Individuals and units have moved back and forth throughout. I know many people who have worked and fought in both. I don't need you or any of your sources to tell me that. I suppose I could have made my point a bit clearer so that you could focus on the main point.
The war on AQI, for a long time, made AQ, collectively, stronger.
Briefly, yes. Now they are weaker. That means they lost or are losing.
AQI was never as dangerous to the American homeland as core AQ in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
I suppose you have to believe something like this in order say it's okay to let Al Qaeda win wars. Imagine if Barack Obama were to say on television that Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is dangerous, but Al Qaeda in Iraq isn't. Do you think that would fly? I don't. I'm sure he doesn't either, which is why he will say no such thing.
AQI was busy fighting Americans in Iraq. If Americans were no longer in Iraq, and AQI built a statelet there, why do you think they would suddenly be at peace with Americans globally while other wings of the franchise remained at war with Americans globally? Seriously?
In no country is Al Qaeda not a threat. None. I am frankly amazed that I should have to explain this to you. I mean, really, Glasnost, do you honestly deep-down believe that an Arab terrorist group is only dangerous if it has a base in non-Arab Central Asia? That it's okay if they secure a base in the heart of the Arab Middle East?
There was no Al-Queda [sic] in Iraq distinct from the anti-American and anti-Shiite insurgency.
Wrong.
In Afghanistan/Pakistan, there remains an AQ Prime with a distinct mission and specialization to conduct terrorist attacks across the globe and on America proper that wasn't much demonstrated by AQI.
Are you kidding me? I personally visited entire cities chewed to pieces by AQI, and know of many Americans killed by AQI. I might have been one of them if I were unlucky. AQI has caused much more damage than Al Qaeda in Pakistan. AQI is the only terrorist group in Iraq that has been able to cause so much destruction to cities that it looked as though World War II had been fought there. You still have no idea at all how destructive they were.
If you think resources should be redeployed from Iraq and Afghanistan into Pakistan, say so. But that's an entirely different argument.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2008 1:18 pm
Briefly, yes. Now they are weaker.
How is AQ weaker now? I note that there have been recent operations in Pakistan and Yemen that bear their fingerprints, and the Taliban/al Qeada seems to be doing a lot of damage in Afghanistan. So my impression is that the opposite case is true.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 21, 2008 2:14 pm
I will not address the rest of the argument here until you fix this.
It should be obvious, but apparently it isn't, that I did not mean that no individuals or units moved from Afghanistan to Iraq. Individuals and units have moved back and forth throughout. I know many people who have worked and fought in both. I don't need you or any of your sources to tell me that. I suppose I could have made my point a bit clearer so that you could focus on the main point.
Say what? Are you reading your own flipping article?
At no time were American resources redeployed from Afghanistan to Iraq.
This thing up there is a quote from you. And it's a false statement. I was being generous here and not calling it a "lie." What happened, moreover, was not "units moving back and forth". Not only would that statement also be contrary to your statement above, but it is equally dishonest and untrue, because it implies equivalency, as if equal strength was merely being "rotated".
What it was, was forces, capabilities, and resources being taken out of Afghanistan and put into Iraq over 2002-3 and beyond. That's the opposite of both what you said, and what you think you meant. There's nothing to finesse here, and you shouldn't try.
At no time were American resources redeployed from Afghanistan to Iraq.
I think you do need to read my links, so pardon me while I extensively quote them.
On February 15, 2002, President Bush directs the CIA to conduct operations in Iraq (see Early 2002). In mid-March, the CIA tells the White House that it is cutting back operations in Afghanistan (see Spring 2002)
In mid-March 2002, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin informs senior members of the president
Posted by: glasnost at September 21, 2008 2:34 pm
I've never really understood this whole "distraction" argument. I thought that when we went to war in Afghanistan after 9/11 it was to disrupt AQ's ability to use it as a safe haven to plot attacks against the United States. Since there have been no further attacks here since 9/11, it would seem that we have been successful in that mission and not distracted from it by the war in Iraq.
I also have never understood the complaint that the only reason AQ went to Iraq is because we invaded that country. It is true that we picked the battlefield but it is they who chose to join the fight. If Iraq was a distraction for the US, then it was equally a distraction for AQ. I'm not sure how this can be considered such a terrible thing.
Posted by: Bennett at September 21, 2008 3:32 pm
Fine, Glasnost, intelligence resources were redeployed. Troops weren't -- and by that you know I mean net troops.
I was thinking about troops rather than CIA agents and predator drones. I'm sorry for not being precise. I have posted a correction here and at Commentary.
You are now free to consider the main point.
I'll tell you right now that if you base your argument on a few spooks and drones, you are not going to convince me or likely anyone else.
The loss of a few spooks and drones in Afghanistan did not give Al Qaeda "time to reconstitute." AQ got its ass kicked in Iraq and is in far worse shape than in 2001, 2002, and 2003. If you think they're happy about what has happened the last few years, you have been paying far too much attention to left-wing American opinion and not nearly enough to Al Qaeda opinion.
If you want to talk about AQ's safe havens in Pakistan, fine, but Pakistan isn't Afghanistan. More resources in Afghanistan are not going to disrupt safe havens in Pakistan. Pakistan is a different country. The reason AQ has safe havens in Pakistan is because we aren't deployed there.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2008 3:37 pm
Bennett: If Iraq was a distraction for the US, then it was equally a distraction for AQ.
Of course.
And it can't be a distraction for both.
This entire argument is ridiculous.
An invasion of Bolivia would have been a distraction.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2008 3:39 pm
DPU: How is AQ weaker now? I note that there have been recent operations in Pakistan and Yemen that bear their fingerprints,
"Weaker" does not mean the same thing as "dead."
No one is saying they're dead or that the whole thing is over.
There have been no AQ attacks in the US since 9/11. How many people on 9/12 thought we would be able say that in 2008? If AQ is stronger now than they were, their strength is very well hidden.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2008 3:45 pm
Not just spooks and drones. Special Operations forces were redeployed, and Army/Marines weren't deployed in the first place. I'd love to do further research on this to document it in full, but I don't have time.
And yeah, I think in balance, AQ is happier with the Iraq situation than if we'd never invaded or if we'd kept the bulk of our resources in Afghanistan.
I'm going to use some arbitrary numbers to make my point. In Feb 2003, AQ's strength in Iraq = 0. Zarqawi didn't pledge allegiance to OBL until 2004/2005 (I could look it up, but am not going to take the time, right now).
Since 2004/5, AQ's strength in Iraq has waxed and then waned, but in September 2008 its strength in Iraq is > 0. Thus AQ's strength in Iraq:
2003: 0
Now: >0
Why shouldn't AQ be happy with those results?
Meanwhile, you say:
AQI was busy fighting Americans in Iraq. If Americans were no longer in Iraq, and AQI built a statelet there, why do you think they would suddenly be at peace with Americans globally while other wings of the franchise remained at war with Americans globally? Seriously?
In no country is Al Qaeda not a threat. None. I am frankly amazed that I should have to explain this to you. I mean, really, Glasnost, do you honestly deep-down believe that an Arab terrorist group is only dangerous if it has a base in non-Arab Central Asia
I didn't say that AQI presence in Iraq was "not a threat". I said that the core AQ in Afghanistan/Pakistan was, and is, a greater threat to Americans outside Iraq than AQI has been at any point in time. This isn't a hard argument to make. Just compare the number of successful and attempted terrorist attacks outside the home states directed a) from Afghan/Pakistan vs. those directed from Iraq. My count is roughly 15 to 1.
There are reasons for this, most of which are based on 1) the greater security and operational freedom of AQ in Afghan/Pakistan and 2) the fact that AQI was working alongside a broader anti-American Sunni insurgency that disagreed sharply on tactics and strategy. That's why AQI was fighting with Sunni insurgents as early as 2005 (I will cite that, if you doubt me). AQI worked in an operational environment in which they were forced to consider other local forces and movements that constrained its capacity for international attacks, as well as its interest in them.
If you disagree, then what's your explanation for why about 15 international attacks have been plotted from Bin-Laden land in 2001-2008 while AQI has only a single bombing in Jordan to its score, internationally?
I have never personally suggested a complete withdrawal from Iraq. I have suggested a co-option of Iraqi Sunnis much like what has occured, combined with a firm political commitment to a timetabled withdrawal in that negotiated context, predicated on the non-emergence of an AQI statelet, with a significant remaining covert presence that did not attempt to be the sovreign force in the country.
The ratio of troops in Iraq vs. Afghanistan has been about 4 to 1, where as I'd have made it about 1 to 4 the other way - which goes along with the core AQ threat being several times greater at all times than the AQI threat.
Posted by: glasnost at September 21, 2008 3:59 pm
Moreover, the specific point you cite against Obama:
The notion that
Posted by: glasnost at September 21, 2008 4:27 pm
What seems to be missing in those who question our involvement in Iraq vs. our deployment of resources to Afghanistan is (apparently) a fundamental misunderstanding of what I think the majority of the American people really want, which is no more attacks on us here at home. It seems clear that we can live with bombings and terrorist attacks in other countries because we were (reluctantly) tolerating that before 9/11.
IF AQ had mounted a successful attack on the US during the time we were clearly bogged down in Iraq and IF that attack had been plotted and carried out from Afghanistan, then the majority of the American people would likely have agreed that we were distracted by Iraq and had taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan.
But since AQ, for whatever reason, chose not to plot such an attack on the US and instead devoted its resources to fighting a losing battle with the US in Iraq, the distraction argument simply doesn't resonate except with certain Presidential candidates and various pundits.
The only evidence of "reconstituting" that matters will be if or when AQ launches an attack here.
P.S. This isn't to say that there aren't valid criticisms to be made about our invasion of Iraq. It's that I don't think the "distraction" argument is one of them.
Posted by: Bennett at September 21, 2008 4:31 pm
There have been no AQ attacks in the US since 9/11. How many people on 9/12 thought we would be able say that in 2008?
Do you have any other basis for saying that they're weaker other than that they haven't attacked in the US since?
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 21, 2008 4:36 pm
Al-Qaeda does have the capability to launch attacks in the U.S., IMO, but not on the scale they want.
If they really felt like bombing, say, a supermarket in Kentucky, they probably could. But doing so would be detrimental to their cause in the long run.
There is currently a strong anti-American sentiment around the world, and a massive percentage of Americans want to pull out of Iraq. For al-Qaeda, this is good news. That could change drastically if they launch an attack on American soil.
If they're going to attack, they're going to make it worth their while--a spectacular hit on the level of 9/11. Pulling something like that off is not easy, and it's going to take them a long time to plan it.
Launching a small-scale attack, or even a series of small-scale attacks on American soil, makes no sense. It would hardly hurt the U.S. economy, it would push more Americans to support the wars in Iraq and Afganistan, and would prompt the U.S. government to be even more aggressive in shutting down terrorist "charities" and in clamping down on aliens in the U.S.
Posted by: Edgar at September 21, 2008 5:25 pm
DPU: Do you have any other basis for saying that they're weaker other than that they haven't attacked in the US since?
Thousands are captured or dead, and their recruitment is drying up.
They're having a very hard time finding people who are willing to be suicide bombers, and they're trying to figure out how to deal with that. Their Web sites are full of laments about this, and they're having to brainstorm for fixes. I don't remember where I read about this, but it was very recently. I'll post the link if I can find it. Maybe someone else here saw it and remembers?
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2008 5:25 pm
DPU: AQ is happier with the Iraq situation than if we'd never invaded or if we'd kept the bulk of our resources in Afghanistan.
Then you aren't paying enough attention to what AQ is saying.
Maybe I should write more about that since most other reporters can't be bothered.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2008 5:28 pm
Glasnost: Thus AQ's strength in Iraq:
2003: 0
Now: >0
Why shouldn't AQ be happy with those results?
America's strength in Vietnam:
1958: 0
1972: >0
Were Americans happy with those results?
The US and AQ both deployed to Iraq. They lost. or them, that is not good. I don't know why this is difficult to understand.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2008 5:32 pm
Also, Glasnost, has it ever occurred to you that the reason AQI was less of a threat (internationally) was because they faced huge numbers of American soldiers?
I agree that AQ in Pakistan needs to be dealt with, along with AQ in Iraq and AQ in Afghanistan. But you're framing this, partly, as a choice between deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan or Afghanistan and Pakistan. The real argument has been Afghanistan only or Afghanistan plus Iraq. Iraq or Pakistan is a different argument. I'm happy to have that argument (we might not disagree), but it is a separate argument.
Yes, invading Iraq in 2003 made AQ's presence in Iraq possible. But it makes no sense whatsoever for the US to say "Whoah, Al Qaeda showed up in Iraq all of a sudden, so I guess we'd better clear out of the way and let them take over since they weren't here last year."
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2008 5:38 pm
Glasnost: I have no doubt that if we'd reduced forces in Iraq to about 30K in 2006, in 2008 you'd have been arguing that doing so gave AQ in Iraq time to "reconstitute itself".
Yes, but we didn't gut our troops by 75 percent in Afghanistan. If we had done that, I would agree with you and Barack Obama.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 21, 2008 5:44 pm
mjt - DPU: AQ is happier with the Iraq situation than if we'd never invaded or if we'd kept the bulk of our resources in Afghanistan.
No, that was glasnost. But al Qaeda themselves has said as much, and they were benefiting from America's presence in Iraq.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 21, 2008 8:55 pm
I don't remember where I read about this, but it was very recently. I'll post the link if I can find it. Maybe someone else here saw it and remembers?
Recent polls have indicated that AQ enjoys less popularity among the Islamic hoi polloi gthan they used to. Support in Saudi Arabia is down to ten percent, for example.
This, of course, is good news. But the effectiveness of extremist organizations like AQ is not simply measured by popularity polls. And even if we were to do so, simply cutting back on certain types of suicide bombings and increasing other types of attacks could change that overnight.
And the fact that Bin Laden is still at large is quite a black eye, no matter how it is spun.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 21, 2008 9:02 pm
Some commentators herein, such as those advancing the "distraction" argument, appear to be forgetful of just how much resistance there was from sundry leftist quarters to the Afghanistan campaign in the first place, in late 2001 and into 2002 and beyond.
The arguments put forth included but were not limited to "American imperialism" and the neo-colonial judgement; the tragedies of war in general, foremost civilian casualties; the fact Afghanistan had recently successfully resisted Soviet imperialism (ignoring ironies such as the puppet Soviet regime installed during that period), invoking the quagmire theme; likewise invoking the spectre of Vietnam; the oil theme; questions such as "why do they hate us?" and "were the 9/11 victims truly innocent?" were still being asked; etc.
All that and more is now conveniently placed in the memory hole.
Posted by: Michael_B at September 21, 2008 9:02 pm
Recent polls have indicated that AQ enjoys less popularity among the Islamic hoi polloi gthan they used to. Support in Saudi Arabia is down to ten percent, for example.
More about the poll:
But while the poll was encouraging, "It's not all Kumbaya," he added. Bergen said a "substantial minority" of Saudis -- 30 percent -- support fighting against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq, and 52 percent would support Saudi Arabia's development of nuclear weapons.
Most Saudis oppose al Qaeda, the survey suggests, and it also found limited support for two other groups the United States has branded terrorist organizations -- Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic movement that rules Gaza, and Hezbollah, Lebanon's Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militia that fought a monthlong war with Israel in 2006.
..Thirty-three percent of Saudis viewed Hezbollah favorably, compared to 42 percent unfavorably. When asked about Hamas, 37 percent had a positive response, while 38 percent viewed the group unfavorably...
...Despite the kingdom's somewhat forbidding reputation among Westerners, Ballen said those contacted were far more receptive to pollsters than most Americans. The poll's response rate was 61 percent, compared to 10 to 15 percent for most U.S. surveys.
Dore Gold describes one of many ways in which Saudis do one thing and say another:
The Saudis have been equally vociferous in their denials. Crown Prince Abdullah's foreign policy advisor, Adel al-Jubeir, asserted on CNN's "Crossfire" on August 16, 2002: "We do not allow funding to go from Saudi Arabia to Hamas." More recently, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told the Saudi daily Arab News on June 23, 2003, that since the establishment of the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, the Saudi Kingdom only sends funding through the PLO. He denied that the Saudis finance Hamas.
Yet during Israel's Operation Defensive Shield last year, a whole array of documents was uncovered which show these repeated Saudi denials to be completely baseless.
I wonder where the pollsters got the list of names to call.
Posted by: maryatexitzero at September 22, 2008 5:24 am
Michael, I have long enjoyed your work.
To the point of distraction; it has often baffled me that intelligent people could seriously say Iraq distracted us and act as though it did not also distract Al-Qaeda.
Furthermore, I submit that concentrating our efforts into the isolated non-secular mountain regions would not have diminished Al-Qaeda's standing in the opinion polls you cite. That concentration would've also allowed Al_Qaeda to choose the battle field - the same ones they have been fortifying and familiarizing themselves with since the 80's. Also, it is my opinion that the Oil For Food Corruption indicated Saddam was in no way contained - only delayed - and would've had to be dealt with sooner or later. Following that thinking, forcing Al-Qaeda to play their hateful hand in the secular nation of Iraq, while we were dealing with him sooner rather than later, put their radical ideology on display for the whole world. Putting that same ideology on display in the non-secular and isolated border region would not have provided the same results. Unfortunately, the brilliance of this strategy will be recognized by history and politicized power mongers the world over.
May God bless us all!
Posted by: n8 at September 22, 2008 6:49 am
DPU,
Sure it can. For a start, al Qaeda in Iraq wasn't an issue until the war against Hussein.
It isn't the "war against al qaida". It is the "war on terror". As somebody who lost personal friends to terrorists other than al qaida in 1983, I kinda resent you trying to focus the whole shebang on AQ. So we declare victory over al qaida and go back to pretending everything is normal? Is that your great idea? Terrorism has been thriving in the middle east for decades. The only thing that makes AQ special is they were able to pull off the 9/11 attacks. If we don't put an end to terrorism (period) then some other terrorist group will do the same or worse in the future. We are at war with an ideology, not with one man and his followers. The war on terror will end when the people who currently support terrorism decide not to, any more. Like Iraqis in Anbar did a year+ ago. Arabs aren't genetically predisposed to be terrorists, and neither or Iranians, Afghans or Pakistanis. When they see how effing awful terrorism really is, they'll drop it like a hot potato. And the only way they'll ever see how bad it is, is when they see it in their own countries. It seems pretty cool when it happens to other people, in other lands.
And al Qaeda made effective use of the invasion of Iraq to gain members and funds.
Evidence? AQ was pretty popular amongst Arabs in 2002 and 2001. Check the polls. Most Arabs won't even mention AQ now without also mentioning how much they hate them. AQ isn't even relevant in the Arab world, these days. If you are going to claim that the invasion of Iraq made disgruntled Arabs in Western countries become radicalized, you might have a valid point.
As has been pointed out here before, they also seem to be using it as a training ground for new members and then returning them to places like Yemen, where they put that training to use.
Who "pointed that out"? I recall some speculation along those lines but nothing that could be substantiated. I'd argue that Iraq has become a killing ground for terrorists, rather than a training ground. What happens with Iraqi shia in the future is what concerns me, at this point.
If there had been no invasion of Iraq, it's unlikely that an al Qaeda in Iraq would ever have been a significant presence. In that sense, it has proved a distraction.
I opposed the war in Iraq, initially. For the reason you state. It's not that I didn't think Saddam didn't have it coming... I just didn't believe Iraq had anything to do with the war we were supposedly fighting at the time. I'm not so sure I was right, in hindsight. I had thought that the US should resolve things one way or another with Iran, after Afghanistan. That seemed like the logical next step, as Iran has a long history of supporting terrorism against the US. But that would have left the Arab world radicalized, and unscathed by the war on terror. It's impossible to predict what would have happened if the US had invaded Iran instead of Iraq, but things could very well have been a lot messier by now...
Posted by: programmmer_craig at September 22, 2008 11:54 am
Glasnost,
Not just spooks and drones. Special Operations forces were redeployed, and Army/Marines weren't deployed in the first place. I'd love to do further research on this to document it in full, but I don't have time.
The invasion of Afghanistan was accomplished with 2 battalions of Marines (2 MEUs) and a ragtag bunch of CIA and special ops guys. We didn't go in with near enough, in the winter of 2001. If we had, we might have nailed OBL right then and there. But, the US never did have a substantial number of troops in Afghanistan. If you are arguing that the US should have "geared up" there a lot more than we did, I'd agree with you. But we could have 300k troops there, and as long as the Taliban and AQ have safe havens in Pakistan it wouldn't help. It would just give them more targets. I don't have any suggestions for how the US/NATO can handle that problem. None that I like, anyway. Do you?
And yeah, I think in balance, AQ is happier with the Iraq situation than if we'd never invaded or if we'd kept the bulk of our resources in Afghanistan.
I kinda doubt that! They made a big show of making their stand against the US in Iraq... and they lost. That isn't good PR!
I'm going to use some arbitrary numbers to make my point. In Feb 2003, AQ's strength in Iraq = 0. Zarqawi didn't pledge allegiance to OBL until 2004/2005 (I could look it up, but am not going to take the time, right now).
That's interesting, considering Zarqawi was trained at AQ camps in Afghanistan and was wounded there (Afghanistan) when the US invaded in 2001. Who do you figure he was loyal too, besides AQ? I'm not trying to claim AQ was in Iraq prior to 2003, I'm just wodnering why you are making this dubious claim about Zarqawi?
PS-If special ops and CIA field agents are not in Afghanistan now, where are they? In your opinion? I think we sent every Army special forces, Navy SEAL and CIA field agent we had to Afghanistan in 2001, and what you are calling a "redeployment" is just an adjustment. We couldn't leave every special ops guy and CIA agent we have in Afghanistan, forever. They need time off too, and the US also has other places that need some attention from those folks. Right? :)
Posted by: programmmer_craig at September 22, 2008 12:25 pm
Programmer Craig: I'm not trying to
claim AQ was in Iraq prior to 2003, I'm just wodnering why you are making
this dubious claim about Zarqawi?

Actually, he was in Iraq before 2003.
First he was in Kurdistan with Ansar Al Islam, which has since changed its name to Al Qaeda in Kurdistan and is based in Iran.
Then Zarqawi moved on to Baghdad -- before the US invaded.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 22, 2008 1:34 pm
According to Lawrence Wright in "The Looming Tower", Osama bin Laden founded Al-Qaeda to convince the Islamic world that if Muslims were "sufficiently pure" according to Islamic standards, they could defeat a superpower -- thereby opening the way for the defeat of the west and the reestablishment of a global caliphate.
Thus the whole point behind the 9/11 attacks was to goad us into coming to Afghanistan -- where bin Laden was certain we would be routed like the Soviets had been decades before.
But that didn't work out. After seeing most of his followers either flee or die at Tora Bora -- and according to Wright, over 100 of the 300 men bin Laden considered "truly Al Qaeda" were killed in that battle -- bin Laden was forced to flee into Pakistan in March of 2002. Afghanistan was lost to both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and was in the hands of the Great Satan. "Pure" Islamic fighters did not prevail.
However, the American invasion of Iraq presented another opportunity to prove the claim -- to achieve a victory that would erase the taste -- and the memory -- of the rout in Afghanistan. Given this second chance, bin Laden seized on it and declare Iraq the central front in this war with the west.
But he's failed again. And not only has he failed to defeat the superpower, he's (generally) failed to win over the Muslims laboring under the Great Satan's occupation.
And yet, some of you want us to believe that bin Laden and al-Qaeda are happy about how things have worked out in Iraq? I don't think so.
Posted by: Michael Smith at September 22, 2008 1:34 pm
"I have never personally suggested a complete withdrawal from Iraq. I have suggested a co-option of Iraqi Sunnis much like what has occured, combined with a firm political commitment to a timetabled withdrawal in that negotiated context, predicated on the non-emergence of an AQI statelet, with a significant remaining covert presence that did not attempt to be the sovreign force in the country." -Glasnost
Um, isn't that awfully similar to the route that has been taken?
Posted by: Joe at September 22, 2008 5:14 pm
Then you aren't paying enough attention to what AQ is saying
There's sometimes useful information to be gained from listening to what AQ is saying, but to simply take every word they say at literal face value is to let them lead you around by the nose. AQ isn't stupid. What they say should be divided into a variety of categories, to include
a) things they want their supporters/followers to believe, but don't believe themselves
b) things they want Western security forces to believe, but don't believe themselves
c) things they want to believe themselves, but do not actually act in accordance with
d) genuinely honest statements about their strategy and reasoning for various actions.
D is a lot less than 100%.
But we could have 300k troops there, and as long as the Taliban and AQ have safe havens in Pakistan it wouldn't help. It would just give them more targets. I don't have any suggestions for how the US/NATO can handle that problem. None that I like, anyway. Do you?
Safe havens are a serious problem, but I don't think I would say, or Mike, that 300K vs. 30K troops would therefore be irrelevant. I tend to think COIN campaigns are near-universally a bad idea, but I wouldn't go so far as to say the amount of resources you pack in are completely irrelevant. The anti-american insurgency in Iraq had safe havens in neighboring countries as well, which is one reason why I was pessimistic about our chances. The Qaeda-ization solved that problem, to an extent.. or so I surmise, not having a better explanation.
And my solution is to put US troops in Pakistan. When push comes to shove, the Pakistani army would never get in a serious fight with us. We own their entire tech tree.
The US and AQ both deployed to Iraq. They lost. or them, that is not good. I don't know why this is difficult to understand.
The problem here is that this is a bad analogy. AQ & the US Army are fundamentally dissimilar.
Terrorist organizations win by continuing to exist. The US Army could have hung around in Vietnam until they depopulated the place. They'd never have run out of soldiers and weapons. They quit because the costs of the war outweighed the benefits. That is essentially never true for a terrorist organization.
AQI, considered as a distinct organization, has had a couple of years of decline. But AQ, globally, has essentially gotten a net gain from the Iraq War as long as AQI > 0, because 0 is where they started at the beginning of the Iraq War. No harder a frame to grasp than yours.
Look at it from this perspective: in 1916, the British crushed the Easter uprising in Ireland. They won a complete victory of the sort we have yet to win in Iraq. Armed resistance ceased completely.
The IRA still essentially won that conflict, because the political goals of Britain were less viable than when it began. In effect, the IRA, which didn't even exist yet- the Irish resistance, even at zero military capacity in May 1916, still was better off than before the Easter uprising. They had advanced their cause from where it started.
Now, apply this picture to Iraq.
You're clinging to the "lost" frame in the context of "AQI failed to capture military/political control of the entire territory of Iraq" - but that was never a realistic goal to begin with, nor is it the only end state in which AQ as a whole enjoys a net gain. AQI has gained in Iraq because, even if large numbers of Iraqis don't like them, they can still mobilize more Iraqis than before this started. They're more of a threat in Iraq than they were when this began. They haven't, strictly speaking, "won" 2007-8 in the sense of having achieved all possible goals, but they've still won 2003-2008, in terms of being stronger than when they began.
Even more solid than that case is that AQ as a whole, won from Iraq, which could still be true even if AQI was absolutely eradicated in Iraq down to the last man and evil thought.
As I stated earlier, the frame "If Iraq was a distraction for the US, it was also a distraction for AQ" is a shallow argument. There's a vast discrepancy between the percentage of the US's military/-defense capacity sunk into Iraq, vs. the total capacity of AQ. AQ tied down ~75% of our available anti-terror resources for a pittance of its own resources.
As I said earlier, the vast majority of what AQ used against us in Iraq came from Iraq. They weren't depleting scarce resources: they were being handed resources from nothing, or a tiny pinch of seed material, and having them grow exponentially.
This isn't conjecture or hypothesis - the vast majority of people, weapons and money deployed against the US in Iraq were taken from inside Iraq itself. I can produce a blizzard of supporting evidence for that, and I doubt that you will really dispute that.
Seriously, you can fool yourselves, but to do so requires leaving a lot of things out. Everyone understands that the Afghan situation has gotten progressively worse and hardly anyone thinks that a vast infusion of US troops would not have avoided that.
Because of the contiguous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, they function as essentially a single unit in many ways. The growth in Afghanistan fuels the growth in Pakistan, and vice versa. The folks in charge of blowing up Americans overseas - the safe havens in Pakistan - are much safer than they would have been if we'd been strong in Afghanistan. The success in Afghanistan has enabled the militants in Pakistan to deploy greater violent pressure against the Pakistan government.
Meanwhile, Iraq is an isolated theater - and because of the civil war, there was no real prospect of a genuinely safe haven. That conflict would have forced the Iraq Sunnis to come to terms one way or the other, and that would have involved keeping a lid on AQ - one way or the other. What tendrils evaded that net, we could certainly have helped in choking off. But instead of that limited goal, we consolidated political and military control over the whole country.
That's, in a sense, altruistic of us - although the not as altruistic as leaving - but it has exposed the US to more risk and both prolonged and made even more lethal the inevitable final confrontation with AQ in Pakistan.
That extra risk has not been fatal for Americans in large numbers. However, Barack is absolutely right that the Iraq fight was a distraction from the critical theater.
A better WWII metaphor would be if we canceled the invasion of Germany indefinitely, to spend five years sitting in France, trying to chase down Otto Skorzeny with our entire army, with the Soviets similarly hunting Croatian fascists and their German trainers instead of moving on Berlin.
Posted by: glasnost at September 22, 2008 7:10 pm
Um, isn't that awfully similar to the route that has been taken?
It's more like it was than in 2004, but we still have 150K troops in Iraq, so all things considered.. no.
Posted by: glasnost at September 22, 2008 7:11 pm
Glasnost,
I get your logic, but you're missing something important here.
A better WWII metaphor would be if we canceled the invasion of Germany indefinitely, to spend five years sitting in France, trying to chase down Otto Skorzeny with our entire army, with the Soviets similarly hunting Croatian fascists and their German trainers instead of moving on Berlin.
Al Qaeda is Arab. "Germany" in this war is the Arab world. Afghanistan and Pakistan are "France."
The analogy is more than a little ridiculous, and it's slightly painful to read what I just wrote, but I'm trying to riff on your analogy here.
The point is that the Arab Middle East is where Al Qaeda ideology comes from, and after 9/11 it was seen as necessary to take up a sword against them in the part of the world its adherents actually live in. Saudi Arabia would have been better than Iraq in some ways, but it was a politically and diplomatically impossible option for obvious reasons, and also a foolish option for slightly less obvious reasons. (Imagine a military occupation of Mecca. Yikes on stilts.)
If Afghanistan and Pakistan were somehow transformed into the Switzerland and Austria of Central Asia, the Arab world would remain just as poisonous and dangerous as it was when Al Qaeda's ideology was hatched in the first place.
I knew two things instinctively within hours of the twin towers' collapse om 9/11.
1. Iraq was innocent.
2. Iraq would be invaded.
And I did not for one second think the government was going to blame Saddam Hussein and make him a fall guy. It was simply obvious that the source of this violence was Arab and that war would be fought somewhere in the Arab world because of it. Iraq was the logical insertion point.
I think the same thing would have happened if Al Gore were president. Obviously I can't prove it.
Whether or not the decision was wise in another question. But it's near-inevitability was apparent to me, and the reasons for it are rarely given much thought, and even more rarely discussed.
Thomas Friedman also understood this many years ago, and he's one of the few people to mention it in public.
Here's his piece in the New York Times.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 22, 2008 7:47 pm
This is now becoming a larger and more complicated argument. That doesn't make it invalid, of course. You're arguing, basically, at least implicitly,
that despite my calculus about whether or not AQ globally has grown, strictly from a resources perspective, relative to the size it would have been in 2008 if we'd swarmed Afghanistan instead, or even changed focus in 2006 - that the war in Iraq was still better off, because Afghanistan is intrinsically unimportant to Islamic perceptions and - actually, to be specific, to Arab perceptions - and Iraq is intrinsically important.
That's not an argument I happen to agree with personally, but it isn't one I can disprove. I don't consider it self-evidently invalid, at least.
But the Obama argument is equally coherent. I've just demonstrated that.
I suppose, if you believed that an Afghanistan/Pakistan pacification campaign was going to be inherently ineffective in deflating AQ and we'd have had to fight ground wars in the Persian Gulf anyway, or else definitely face more large terror attacks on the US, you could justify what seems from here like the pointless expenditure of blood and treasure trying to fix an unnecessary and unhelpful subsidiary problem.
I don't believe that myself. For one thing, there were other ways to get on the right side of Arab public opinion than this very bloody path. Allowing Hosni Mubarak to fall and partnering with the resulting regime would have been just as good, and involved a lot less straightforward carnage.
There may be some positive demonstration effect to come of all this. I wouldn't rule it out. There may be some democracy resonance as well to our benefit, although that's unclear.
However, Tom Friedman's "real" reason for this war - the one I think you're suggesting justifies it - is not moral. Making examples out of whom we perceive to be generally attractive targets to send a message to everyone else is a very grim COIN tactic that often backfires immediately and hardly ever works in the long run. It's no way to run a just world order.
It ought to have been enough to have made examples ought of the people who committed the crimes. And in the long run, it would have been.
If the bitter alienation of Arab youth and their anti-Americanism is the war target problem, I don't feel that the Iraq war has solved it.
Posted by: glasnost at September 22, 2008 9:03 pm
I think this whole continuing discussion demonstrates why the kind of pieces Commentary wants you to write are a shame. If you'd put up a reflective item making a case for both sides of a genuinely uncertain argument..
"is Obama right? is he wrong? it's hard to say"..
Commentary wouldn't have taken it.
it's easy for me to throw stones up here from my ivory tower, etc, I don't have a family to feed, etc. I'm not claiming I'm better than you about it either. Indeed, I am judgmental, vehement and prone to overly declarative statements. Nevertheless, it's a shame. Commentary readers are not getting this side of what I have demonstrated is by no means an open/shut argument.
Posted by: glasnost at September 22, 2008 9:10 pm
Glasnost,
I write whatever I want at Commentary. I wouldn't, and haven't, written any differently when I self-publish my own pieces. They don't tell me what to think or what to write. I select my own topics. They have never censored me or rejected a single one of my ideas.
Obviously if I wanted to write, all of a sudden, why Michael Moore's worldview is the correct one, they would reject it. But I don't want to write any such thing. I fit in very well at the magazine. They don't censor me, nor do I self-censor.
In case you aren't aware, Commentary is the left-most right-of-center magazine in the country. I'm somewhere between the left-wing of the right and the right-wing of the left, so Commentary is where I should be. We're basically a bunch of educated, urban, cosmopolitan people who are not liberals. Disgruntled right-wingers in the comments often dismiss us as blue-state RINOs. They have a point. I'm still technically registered as a Democrat, so that makes me a DINO.
I spent a week in Baku with two other Commentary writers (one is also an editor), and we agreed with each other about practically everything. I can't think of any other magazine staff where that would be possible. National Review, no. The New Republic, no. Although I agree with writers at both those magazines about some things.
Don't blame the magaznie for what I write. Blame me. And maybe read the magazine more even if you think we're often wrong. We're not your enemies, and at the end of the day we're not all that different from you. We're not Rush Limbaughs or Sean Hannitys. You know?
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 22, 2008 10:04 pm
In case you aren't aware, Commentary is the left-most right-of-center magazine in the country.
If you say so. I admit, I only read their blog. But I find written articles in the National Review and the Weekly Standard that seem written from an objective tone and that make fair arguments. Not regularly, but either occasionally or a little more than that.
Similarly, at the Corner and the Standard blog - there are some outright mouth-foamers and hacks, but there's also some neutral/interesting stuff.
I seem to never see anything on Contentions demonstrating this relative moderation on domestic policy, and their foreign policy principles to me seem very, very aggressive.
They seem focused, to me: a) on foreign affairs, sometimes informative - but the most right-wing, if militarism is right wing, of any of the mainstream conservative places -
and b) on domestic policy, either militantly hostile to democrats and centrists alike, or else entirely absent. Not obviously distinguishable from places like the Ace of Spades that serve explicitly as weapons against domestic opponents.
I must be missing something. Maybe the magazine pieces are less pugilistic?
Posted by: glasnost at September 23, 2008 8:04 am
The 'right-wing' frame on Commentary isn't perfect. They have a distinct philosophy there, I see how it fits yours, and it's arguably radical enough to be hostile to pretty much the entire foreign policy establishment, left and right alike.
Posted by: glasnost at September 23, 2008 8:07 am
Glasnost: it's arguably radical enough to be hostile to pretty much the entire foreign policy establishment, left and right alike.
Oh, please.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 23, 2008 9:18 am
I mean, really, Glasnost, let me know when Commentary starts publishing anything remotely like this.
That kind of crap is all over just about every left-of-center publication out there except for The New Republic. (The New Republic represents the right-wing of the left. It's for sane people.)
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 23, 2008 9:45 am
For one thing, there were other ways to get on the right side of Arab public opinion than this very bloody path.
I think this section here illustrates the main disagreement I have with you, glasnost. And the reason why we will probably never agree on much when it comes to the WoT. You seem to think that it is America's job to get on the good side of Arabs. Isn't that another way of saying that US actions are the cause of Arab terrorism? That is *exactly* the type of thinking that needs to be thoroughly and resoundingly smashed.
I think it is the job of Arabs to get on the right side of morality, instead. Terrorism is inherently immoral (some would say evil but best to keep religion out of it, no?), and it is blatantly obvious to anyone who sees it up close and personal. Even Arabs. It isn't Arab public opinion about the US that must change, but Arab public opinion about Arabs and about Islam that must change. If the US tried kissing up to Arabs as you suggest, that would be a vindication of terrorism. One more vindication, in a long decades long list. Terrorism can't ever again be allowed to buy anybody anything except pain and misery.
Posted by: programmmer_craig at September 23, 2008 1:22 pm
Terrorism can't ever again be allowed to buy anybody anything except pain and misery.
And this illustrates a main disagreement that I have with this mindset. Bold pronouncements like this are pretty much hot air. Terrorism is a popular tactic because it's cheap and it works. Despite your imperative, political fanatics will continue to use it, and continue to benefit from it.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 23, 2008 1:30 pm
you're not listening carefully, craig. I'm all for sending a message via neutralizing the people that actually went after us. MT was reffering to a reason why it was also worth it to get in with Iraq, which suggests that you can win over Arab public opinion by knocking over Arab governments at random.
I think it is the job of Arabs to get on the right side of morality, instead.
Most of the billion Muslims who are neither active terrorists nor fans of the US don't really care what you think, and punitive shock and awe is not going to terrify their hostility into submission. Iraq was turned around by foregoing your Manchiean self-righteousness and cutting deals with some bad people while killing others, and by a lot of in personal schmoozing and tolerating the retrograde, backwards, hostile, and intolerant viewpoints of various of our Iraqi partners. We lack the coercive means to beat the bad ideas out of a billion people. Get over it. Start now.
Getting on the good side of Arab public opinion - which is part of and a precondition to the whole of what Mike and I are talking about, which includes encouraging structural and institutional change - is necessity to be done to the greatest extent possible. A cavalier "it's your problem to stop hating us, pal", results in zero net results, which results in more Americans dying. It also, as a practical manner, makes every single other change that one tries to institute less likely to work.
Posted by: glasnost at September 23, 2008 1:45 pm
I mean, really, Glasnost, let me know when Commentary starts publishing anything remotely like this.
I had a long post that seems to have been eaten, but I ran off a list of my eight or so favorite liberal websites, and that sort of silliness would not be found in any of them. You've picked, even by Huffington Post standards, an outlier, and HuffPo has the lowest standards of any of the top 100 liberal blogs.
Besides, the point isn't the left vs. the right, it's Commentary. I went through Contentions post by post and found six foreign affairs pieces, 10 anti-Obama hit jobs, none of them substantive, two or three questionings of McCain purely on political tactics and horserace effectiveness, and two posts about none of the above.
The front page is running: a story about secret radical leftism of Barack Obama, and a story about how we're being soft on radical environmentalists, in terms of not jailing them enough.
So explain to me how Commentary is less right-wing then National Review or the Weekly Standard. Like I said, I find more stuff in there that is reasonable than in Commentary. The exception is foreign affairs, where Commentary is arguably less "conservative", but that does not equal more moderate, because they're not. They have a distinct philosophy which in some ways is halfway between Democrat and Republican, but is arguably less moderate than both.
Posted by: glasnost at September 23, 2008 1:53 pm
Glasnost: The front page is running: a story about secret radical leftism of Barack Obama, and a story about how we're being soft on radical environmentalists, in terms of not jailing them enough.
Do you have any objections to Muravchik's piece on Obama's past?
And do you think it's okay for environmentalists to deliberately inflict 60,000 dollars worth of damage on a power plant in an act of sabatoage and not go to jail? If your business was physically attacked by anyone for any reason, I'm pretty sure you'd want those people in jail. Most people would. If you don't agree, you are the extremist, not the magazine who published the article.
I wouldn't have thought you'd think it was okay for those people not to go to jail. People are always surprising.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 23, 2008 2:31 pm
Terrorism is a popular tactic because it's cheap and it works.
That's why the point of counter-terrorism should be to show terrorists (and wannabes) that terrorism doesn't work.
Posted by: maryatexitzero at September 23, 2008 3:41 pm
DPU,
And this illustrates a main disagreement that I have with this mindset.
The mindset you seem to have a problem with is called "sanity" :P
Bold pronouncements like this are pretty much hot air.
Only when there are cowards (like you?) around, willing to give extortionists what they want, instead of what they deserve.
Terrorism is a popular tactic because it's cheap and it works. Despite your imperative, political fanatics will continue to use it, and continue to benefit from it.
Which explains why everyone does it. Oh. Wait. Everyone doesn't actually do it. Nevermind.
Maybe you can explain who benefited from the 9/11 attacks? Oh. Wait. You and glasnost think Al Qaida benefited from the 9/11 attacks. Again, nevermind.
Posted by: programmmer_craig at September 23, 2008 4:14 pm
glasnost,
you're not listening carefully, craig. I'm all for sending a message via neutralizing the people that actually went after us.
So you want to neutralize Arabs in general? Or only Arab Muslims? Pretty extreme, in my view.
MT was reffering to a reason why it was also worth it to get in with Iraq, which suggests that you can win over Arab public opinion by knocking over Arab governments at random.
I didn't see that in MJT's comments or in any of his posts. Maybe you are better at reading between the lines than I am, eh?
Most of the billion Muslims who are neither active terrorists nor fans of the US don't really care what you think
It isn't necessary for them to. It's only necessary for them to know that if it comes to them or me, I will choose me... every time. And if it comes to turning their countries into disaster areas or letting them turn my country into a disaster area, they are going to be living in hell.
and punitive shock and awe is not going to terrify their hostility into submission.
I don't give a damn about their hostility, glasnost. I care about their aggression. And knowing that aggression will be met with aggression damn sure does serve as a deterrent. Have you ever seen an abusive bully curbed by anything else but fear?
Iraq was turned around by foregoing your Manchiean self-righteousness and cutting deals with some bad people while killing others, and by a lot of in personal schmoozing and tolerating the retrograde, backwards, hostile, and intolerant viewpoints of various of our Iraqi partners.
That's actually pretty far from the truth. Iraq was "turned around" in Anbar due to fear amongst the locals of both the terrorists who lived amongst them and the atrocities they committed to keep people in line, and the reprisals their terror attacks were drawing from the Shia majority.
In other words, the people in Anbar (mostly the tribal leaders) saw where terrorism was taking them (the abyss) and didn't like it. Even Riverbend commented on her blog about this change when it started happening, more than 2 years ago. And she was always a friend of the Sunni resistance.
We lack the coercive means to beat the bad ideas out of a billion people. Get over it. Start now.
We aren't talking about a billion people. We're talking about Arabs and Iranians. And no, we don't lack the "coercive means" (I really like the way you turn violent extortionists into victims, and victims into bad guys, by the way!) to make people pay for the actions they have supported, if not directly participated in.
Getting on the good side of Arab public opinion - which is part of and a precondition to the whole of what Mike and I are talking about, which includes encouraging structural and institutional change
Again, why don't you let MJT speak for himself? Because what you say, sounds like stupidity. And he doesn't seem like a stupid guy. The goal is not to make Arabs like America. Hell, you don't even like America and you're probably American, right? How are we supposed to make Arabs like the US? That's one of the silliest things I've ever seen somebody write on a blog. Did you have a straight face when you were typing that?
The objective of the neocons was to create prosperous democracies in the middle east. Starting with Iraq. Point being that people who are fat and happy don't send their children on martyrdom missions. I'm not a neocon, as you can probably tell, so I don't really subscribe to that notion. But if you are going to pretend that you do, at least get it right. They've only been explaining it for 6 years now, eh? :P
- is necessity to be done to the greatest extent possible. A cavalier "it's your problem to stop hating us, pal", results in zero net results
Again, you seem to be demonstrating a complete lack of understanding about human psychology. If I'm a hater, nobody can make me into anything other than that. If somebody kisses my ass enough, I may stop hating them quite as much, but you can be sure I'll still be finding reasons to hate just about everyone else I meet.
I, on the other hand, can turn myself around. I can come to the realization that the problem isn't with everyone else, but with me. And that all my rage and hate is making me pretty miserable. And once I'm aware of that, I can start working on changing my fucked up attitude and start thinking of people differently.
But lets face it... most haters are haters until the day they die, aren't they? So what else can happen to change my behavior? Well, if my own the society I live in views my behavior as sufficiently objectionable, I'm going to be living as an outcast. Right?
We need the 950 million Muslims who don't approve of terrorism to treat terrorists and people who support terrorism like dirt. Instead of like heroes, which is the current reality.
Posted by: programmmer_craig at September 23, 2008 4:38 pm
Only when there are cowards (like you?) around, willing to give extortionists what they want, instead of what they deserve.
Why on earth haven't you re-enlisted? You're exactly the kind of howling Sgt Fury personality that would show these terrorists what-for. Drop that keyboard and have at them, Craig. You go, boy.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 23, 2008 4:49 pm
DPU, I spent 6 years in the Marines as an infantryman. Most of that in the 1st Marine Division. But that was back in the 1980s. What's your military background, buddy? Maybe you should drop your keyboard and get on your knees? Or do you just rely on people like me, to do the things you aren't willing to do yourself? And aren't even intellectually honest enough to admit that they need to be done?
Posted by: programmmer_craig at September 23, 2008 6:50 pm
DPU, I spent 6 years in the Marines as an infantryman.
Yes, so you've said before. Hence why I said RE-enlist. The RE means "again".
What's your military background, buddy? Maybe you should drop your keyboard and get on your knees?
Well, I would, but as you suggest, I must be a coward. Man, that sure set me straight. A trifle brusque perhaps, but I figured that you were upset about the historical and geographical errors you made in the previous thread and were just lashing out.
No, I think you're just the programmer for the job. None of this liberal shilly-shallying about the motives of the terrorists, or messing about with what their ultimate aims are. Just a couple of gruff insults thrown out and a salt-of-the-earth desire to keep the terrorists dying.
Makes me wish that I wee either sane or not cowardly. God how I envy you.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 23, 2008 7:25 pm
MJT, usually I think you hold up your end of the discussion very well. This time, not so much. For example, it took you a long time to respond even partially to Glasnost's point about AQI not siphoning off many resources from Afghanistan. (Also, it took too many exchanges before you posted the correction.)
And I don't think you've yet given a solid answer to the argument that focusing on Iraq to fight AQ, rather than Afghanistan, is missing the core of the organization. Granted they're originally an Arab org with a strong Saudi base, the fact is they relocated to Afghanistan/Pakistan. (The argument that AQ is only one of many terrorist groups is worth something, but it's only a partial answer.)
And I don't think you've given any answer at all to the argument that AQI is less dangerous to American soil than AQA/P. You argued that AQI is plenty dangerous to Americans in Iraq, which is true, but beside the point. Then you argued that AQI is very destructive to Iraqi cities - and that, although equally true, is stunningly beside the point.
Posted by: Chris Phoenix at September 24, 2008 3:45 am
Well, I would, but as you suggest, I must be a coward.
Yes. I guess you must be. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. Right?
Man, that sure set me straight. A trifle brusque perhaps...
Or not. On both counts. I've been challenging you on your elitists contempt for anyone who doesn't think about things exactly as you do since I first started commenting on this blog. You aren't very respectful to others, so why do you figure anyone should be respectful of your (cowardly) intellectually dishonest arguments?
but I figured that you were upset about the historical and geographical errors you made in the previous thread and were just lashing out.
Lol. And yet you didn't see fit to even respond when I pointed out some of the absurdities in your comments, there. That seems to be SOP for you. You get caught saying something stupid, and you just switch tracks and start making ad hominem attacks on the person you are arguing with. All the while, trying to seem an intellectual.
No, I think you're just the programmer for the job. None of this liberal shilly-shallying about the motives of the terrorists, or messing about with what their ultimate aims are. Just a couple of gruff insults thrown out and a salt-of-the-earth desire to keep the terrorists dying.
Yes, I can see how much more effective your approach is. Oh. Wait. No, I actually can't. Your approach is what brought us 9/11.
Makes me wish that I wee either sane or not cowardly. God how I envy you.
It must make you feel pretty small to talk about "kill or be killed" scenarios, knowing that you'd stand there trembling and waiting to die if you were ever in that spot. So you do everything you can to pretend those situations can always be avoided. It makes you feel better, right? I've known people like you before. And most of them have had the same (fake) aura of superiority.
MJT, I apologize for my insulting language. Feel free to delete my comments if you wish to. I've had enough of these DPU guy, and I can't be nice to him while he's making snide comments about me any more.
Posted by: programmmer_craig at September 24, 2008 10:27 am
I've had enough of these DPU guy, and I can't be nice to him while he's making snide comments about me any more.
Huh. And here I thought you were made of sterner stuff. You bruise more easily than one would assume, especially considering how free you are with the insults. And "nice" to me?
A couple of suggestions. I can add you to my GreaseMonkey script for this site, and would therefore never see your enlightened comments. You could then insult away without fear of retaliation or need to feel "nice".
Or you could simply code your own and do the same to my comments. You're up to that, aren't you?
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 24, 2008 12:12 pm
dpu,
You have managed to so deeply offend someone that they are no longer willing to interact with you. Rather than showing even the slightest contrition or a willingness to tone things down in the interests of civility, you have instead ramped up the insults in an apparent attempt to get in a final dig.
Do you understand how seriously that sort of response undermines your credibility with those of us observing you? Your every argument now appears questionable simply by virtue of your demonstrated immaturity. Ponder that fact.
______________________________________________
Michael,
I am amazed at the patience you have shown with those who cannot seem to understand what you are saying, no matter how you frame the words. Please know that your writing is much appreciated by the rest of us.
Posted by: Paul M. at September 25, 2008 10:37 am
dpu,

You have managed to so deeply offend someone that they are no longer willing to interact with you.


I think that if you take the time to read the thread, you will see that the ideas were being discussed in a non-personal manner until p_craig called me insane and a coward out of the blue.
I'm all for discussing these things in a non-personal way, and for civilized discourse, especially here, in a forum that I've been an active participant for years.
I do, however, object to being called names simply because someone disagrees with me. I especially dislike it when someone gets insulting, and then gets weepy when the conversation turns personal as a result.
I'll refrain about commenting about others who leap to their defense without reading the entire thread.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 25, 2008 11:03 am
Whoops. One more time, with preview:
dpu,

You have managed to so deeply offend someone that they are no longer willing to interact with you.


I think that if you take the time to read the thread, you will see that the ideas were being discussed in a non-personal manner until p_craig called me insane and a coward out of the blue.
I'm all for discussing these things in a non-personal way, and for civilized discourse, especially here, in a forum that I've been an active participant for years.
I do, however, object to being called names simply because someone disagrees with me. I especially dislike it when someone gets insulting, and then gets weepy when the conversation turns personal as a result.
I'll refrain about commenting about others who leap to their defense without reading the entire thread.
Posted by: double-plus-ungood at September 25, 2008 11:05 am
Craig,
First, you've got a lot of my argument wrong, and I can't be bothered to correct you. Too busy, and losing interest.
Second, the argument has been generalized to the point of uselessness. I'm not going to debate your Master Arab Psychology World-Historical Overview. No one ever proves or disproves anyone or anything, it's a waste of time.
Third, Mike's natural audience is knee-jerk, victory first, Love it or Leave it, American triumphalists. People who don't parrot that line around here have to deal with a lot of bullsh*t. I for one don't waste time trying to sweet talk people with attitude problems, and neither does DPU.
You're okay, at times, in discussion. If you want to actually debate right and wrong, cause and effect, etc, the house skeptics will be civil enough to you. I encourage you to go that route.
If you want to monkey around with outrage at your treatment, scandalized at these anti-american miscreants, etc, etc, you're not going to get anywhere.
I'd actually rather discuss U.S. foreign policy than go back and forth in p*ssing matches, and so would DPU, I suspect. So consider lightening up a little and not assuming the worst about some of the regulars. Eh? On the other hand, if you want a flame war badly enough, you'll get one, here or somewhere else. But they really don't leave a lingering sense of accomplishment.
Posted by: glasnost at September 27, 2008 9:03 am
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