Friday, September 19, 2003

Al Qaeda Is Not An Island

The Christian Science Monitor frequently has wonderful guest editorials, but I've never been very sold on their "The Monitor's View" editorials. They're typically too short by half, and avoid taking any stand on the issue, rather being content to simply point out that the issue exists. After reading this rather atypical Monitor editorial, I can see why. They present a rather simplistic view on how the war with Iraq is not helping Al Qaeda, and that it may, in fact, curtail terror as the increase of democracy sweeps through the middle east (hope truly does spring eternal). This seems to ignore a few basic facts.

Fact: no connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda was ever demonstrated. The best the Bush administration could come up with was that a known Al Qaeda agent was hiding out in Baghdad. Of course, we also know that at various times Al Qaeda agents hung out in Florida, Boston, and up-state New York, and this was never assumed to mean that the local governments there were complicit (although you never know with Jeb Bush).

Fact: the US has limited military and financial capacities. Resources spent destroying and then rebuilding Iraq are not being spent to pursue Al Qaeda and their allies. And this is no small potatoes. We're looking at hundreds of thousands of troops tied down for years, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent.

Fact: the US has limited diplomatic capital. The goodwill that was squandered in pursuit of the war with Iraq will without a doubt hinder the US's international operations (and it's ability to pursue Al Qaeda) for years to come.

Fact: Al Qaeda is not an island. They are the focal point of a broad array of Muslim and arab militant organizations spanning from East Africa through the South-west Pacific. Many of these groups have little in common. One unifying point they can all agree on: they are enraged by Western colonialism, empirialism, interference with, and domination of Muslim states. All of these organizations need funding. All of these organizations need recruits. All of these organizations need local sympathy to shelter and abet their operations. And after the outrage generated by the attack on Iraq, all of these organizations will have an easier time procuring all of those things.

In light of all that, one would have to be delusional to suggest that the war on Iraq did not in any part interfere with our pursuit of the war on terror.

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