Terrorism, Iraq, And The Election

Steven Den Beste has another lengthy and detailed piece on Iraq where he identifies what the terrorists in Iraq are trying to do. Based on the evidence, I think he’s right. They’re trying to get the current government to collapse by inciting a popular revolution in Iraq.

The problem is that it isn’t working. The Iraqi government is very popular in Iraq, and the attacks against Christian churches, Iraqi police, and the Iraqi people has had the exact opposite effect of what the terrorists intended – rather than forcing the Iraqi people into rejecting their new government and embracing shari’a the Iraqi people are rejecting the terrorists as anti-Islamic savages. The terrorists goal of using low level attacks to drive the Americans off hasn’t worked. Despite the over 900 casualties in the Iraq war, staying the course remains the most likely option.

However, I think that the terrorists are hoping for a Kerry win. The reasoning is simple – if Bush wins, it will be interpreted as a mandate to stay the course in Iraq. The US won’t be pulling out any time soon. If anything, the two-term limit of the American system will embolden Bush to continue to push against the states funding the insurgency in Iraq. Despite the canard that Bush’s policies has created more terrorists, that seems to be untrue. People don’t sign up to fight a war in which they know they’ll be killed – they sign up when they know there’s a very real chance of victory. People aren’t going to flock in to fight a losing war – and the last three years has seen the greatest series of failures for the terrorist movement after 20 years of slowly metastizing across the Arab world.

The terrorists know that Kerry’s political base is rabidly against the war. They know that a Kerry Administration is dramatically more likely to cut and run than Bush would ever be. They know that the best way they can make that happen is by continuing to weaken the coalition in Iraq. They know that if they can get some of the weaker members in the coalition to leave, it strengthens Kerry’s argument that Bush is alienating our allies.

That’s why I don’t think that we’ll see al-Qaeda attack in the US – that would likely reinforce Bush’s political position by underscoring the need to have a strong leader against terrorism. It would also lead to a massive backlash – the US is not Spain and we’re not going to roll over as they did. They’ve already learned that lesson once, and they’re not going to repeat their same mistakes.

No, the best thing they could do is engineer a massive event in Iraq that highlights that conflict – a conflict that could well hurt Bush. The assassination of someone like Prime Minister Allawi would bring the attention to Iraq and help Kerry. A major explosion in Baghdad, especially one that involved a large number of US troops in an area where the media could cover it would be exactly the sort of “October suprise” that could weaken Bush.

Attacks on oil installations abroad would also raise oil prices and hurt Bush – which is why those are another terrorist target. However, al-Qaeda’s al-Battar group may have already gone ahead with this plan too early and brought the wrath of the Saudi government on them – their operational capability may be severely limited now that the Saudis have stopped tolerating them and started capturing or killing Qaeda members in the Kingdom.

Fortunately I think that the insurgents are facing a losing battle. The Iraqi people have turned against them, and they’re under pressure from all sides. They have to engineer a “victory” for themselves, and they need to do it soon. No doubt something along those lines is being planned. The question is if they can pull it off – the terrorists need to be able to rely on the tacit support of the people in order to operate freely – and every Iraqi they kill only makes things worse for them. Not even Fallujah is as safe as it once was as Iraqi informants are leading the US to bomb Qaeda safehouses in the city.

The terrorists need to create that kind of “win psychology” in order to gain any long-term success and be able to escalate their operations to the scale where they’d be able to fight off the reformers who would strangle them. If democracy takes off in the Middle East, they’ve lost, which is why they need to be able to stop attempts at reform on a regional level. This means that they have to be able to constantly replace captured or killed jihadis, maintain a steady stream of new recruits, as well as recruiting those who can carry out operations more difficult and sensitive than planting IEDs. This is not an easy task, and the war on terrorism has hampered those abilities to a significant extend. Al-Qaeda is likely unable to plan and execute an attack of the scale of September 11 at this point – they’ve been reduced to small cells that while still dangerous, aren’t as well organized or funded as they were. As Captain Ed notes, the capture of Naeed Noor Khan has definitely effected al-Qaeda’s ability to communicate from cell to cell.

This war is winnable, and we’re now playing on offense. The terrorists understand that the only way they can reverse these trends is to get the US to pull another Mogadishu and leave the Iraqi people to the wolves. If that happens, they get their victory and the flood of recruits and prestige that comes with it – which is why it is crucial to see that never happens. This is also why the mountains of Afghanistan and the warrens of Fallujah are certainly praying for a Bush loss and a Kerry who will cave to his own base and pull the US out of Iraq.

8 thoughts on “Terrorism, Iraq, And The Election

  1. “People don’t sign up to fight in a war where they know they’ll be killed?”

    Oh really? This is a culture where suicide bombers are viewed as heroes. You’re applying Western ideals to Muslim extremists. I would argue that the more perceived victory America achieves in the Middle East, the more radical Muslims will decide to fall on the sword….and it will take a generation of defeat before this logic begins to subside. Certainly I believe we need to “stay the course” in our fight against terrorists for a generation if that’s what it takes, but that fight does not include Iraq, or at least didn’t until this war made it the focal point of Islamic terrorism and as a result forced us to depend on the less-than-stable Pakistanis to do our intelligence gathering for us in relation to al-Qaida. In other words, if radical Islam takes the reins of power in Pakistan (a very likely scenario), then who’s gonna do our work for us while we remain quagmired in Iraq year after year?

  2. Oh really? This is a culture where suicide bombers are viewed as heroes. You’re applying Western ideals to Muslim extremists.

    The same could have been said of the kamikaze fifty years ago – they were suicide bombers too. It didn’t take a generation for imperial Japan to be brought to its knees and fundamentally reorganized – but it did take the national will to finish the job.

    but that fight does not include Iraq, or at least didn’t until this war made it the focal point of Islamic terrorism and as a result forced us to depend on the less-than-stable Pakistanis to do our intelligence gathering for us in relation to al-Qaida.

    That fight involves bringing modernity to the Muslim world, which is the only way to win this war. Iraq is the logical geographical focal point as well as being a society where radical Islam would be unlikely to have much appeal – while Saddam was certainly supporting terrorists abroad, he had weakened the radicals in Iraq to avoid any problems for his rule – which means that the radicals don’t have the pull that they do in other places in the Arab world.

    Also, our intelligence is not being hampered by Iraq. Our intelligence has been hampered by people like John Kerry. The Church Commission did more to weaken our HUMINT capabilities than five simulaneous wars. The argument that the invasion of Iraq forced us to rely on the Pakistanis for intelligence is completely and utterly incorrect. We didn’t have the HUMINT to deal with al-Qaeda long before the war in Iraq.

    In other words, if radical Islam takes the reins of power in Pakistan (a very likely scenario), then who’s gonna do our work for us while we remain quagmired in Iraq year after year?

    Remember also that the ISI are the ones who were propping up the Taliban to begin with. The Pakistani Army are the ones helping us, not the ISI. If Pakistan was taken over by radicals (which despite all the dire predictions hasn’t happened), we’d simply rely on the Afghanis for intelligence. In any event, the chances of something happening in Pakistan that would require us to respond with soldiers is little to none. Remember that the Indian Army is also there, and if something happened in Pakistan that caused the Musharraf government to fall, they would be the ones invading Pakistan, not us.

    In other words, outside of a Tom Clancy potboiler, none of these arguments carry any weight.

  3. The kamikaze’s motivation for self-sacrifice was the product of government brainwash. When the Emperor lost his clothes in 1945, the kamikazes lost their motivation to kill themselves for the cause. The brainwash of radical Muslims comes not from a government that be knocked off its throne, but from shadowy terrorist organizations pumping twisted Koran theology into their brains. It strikes me that one justifying his suicide mission in the name of religious fundamentalism is considerably less likely to have a change of heart than one justifying his suicide mission based on a doomed totalitarian government who would put a bullet into his head if he didn’t obey.

  4. Mark: I am going to have to say… umm nope. Twisted religion brainwashed the mind of the Japanese kamikaze same as it does the modern day Islamic extremist. The Emperor of Japan was a god to the Japanese soldiers. To the Japanese of the time honoring ones family was a religious act that had eternal consequences. WWII was a religious war to most of the Japanese. That is why some jumped of cliffs to get away from the great white Satan Americans. The idea that a government could get someone to go on a suicide mission by placing a gun to their head is ludicrous. I can just see that conversation…

    The tough officer threatens, “If you don’t go over there jump in that plane and go kill yourself I’m going to shoot you in the head.” The young soldier quietly whispers “OH, Crap I’m screwed”.

    To my understanding this type of Stalinist threat did not happen on a large scale in Japan. Even the Russians gave the hope (even if it was slim) that if you must defeat the Germans to survive. The idea of survival is essential for effective soldiers.

  5. Osama bin Laden actually gave us the key in the issue of recruitment of terrorists (who should know better than he anyway): he stated that the people would go with the strong horse and abandon the weak horse. (The horse analogy was his words.)

    His premise was simple: if the terrorist movement appears stronger it will prosper and gain recruits. The people in the Middle East respect strength above all, and will gravitate in that direction.

    This is why the Bush approach works in diminishing the recruitment of terrorists: it shows strength. All during the 90’s, when Clinton tried the approach of doing very little militarily and trying to act nice and appease Arafat and basically do what the liberals are advocating now, Al Qaeda and other terrorist operations only gained numbers and strength. Why? OBL answered the question perfectly: the people in the Middle East perceived us as weak and the terrorists as stronger, and migrated thusly.

    Bush has reversed that equation. The people in the Middle East definitely do not see us as weak.

    There is no doubt that the terrorists would prefer Kerry. We know the mullahs in Iran have expressed favor for Kerry, we know Kim Jung Il prefers Kerry and broadcasts his speeches (a rare honor in NK), we know the anti-Semitic former PM of Malaysia has expressed backing for Kerry, we know Hezbollah and Castro and the Cuban communists are promoting the Micheal Moore F911 propaganda piece…how many more signals do we need?

  6. More proof that terrorists favor Kerry (from Joan Swirsky):

    The Kerry camp sent an e-mail to the Mehr news agency in Tehran, which published the message in blaring headlines, as did the hard-line, anti-American Tehran Times. The e-mail’s entire seven-paragraph text was interpreted, Timmerman says, as “Kerry’s support for the murderous regime” – a regime responsible for 25 years of terror and “Iran’s overt support and harboring of top al-Qaeda operatives.”

    Kerry’s e-mail has since spread like wildfire throughout the Middle East, where members of al-Qaida, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Liberation Front, among other terrorist groups, are rejoicing at his message to “repair the damage done by the incumbent president.”

    “The hardcore America-hating, Israel-hating, jihad-spouting Muslim clerics in the Mideast are very excited and passing [the e-mail] around,” writes Don Bendell, former Vietnam Green Beret captain and best-selling author.

    No wonder Kerry announced that he has “the support of foreign leaders”! No wonder he is receiving massive campaign contributions from Iranian businessmen who are lobbying to have the U.S. lift its sanctions on Iran.

    And no wonder the chairman of the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran wrote to Kerry saying that the e-mail “sends a message that America is willing to make a deal despite the blood of Americans who were murdered … and are being killed today in Iraq … you have encouraged and emboldened a tyrannical regime to use this as propaganda and declare ‘open season’ on the freedom fighters in Iran.”

  7. Joecrazy, you make a good point….but I still see a difference. The “God” that the kamikazes were killing themselves for ceased to exist after the end of World War II. If we capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the suicide bombers haven’t lost their God the way the Japanese did when the Emperor was killed. They’ll still have a reason to fight in the name of Allah that the kamikazes didn’t.

  8. There is no doubt whom the terrorists would rather have as US President: John “appeasement” Kerry.

    The man who told us not to fight Communism would not fight terrorism, either, and the terrorists know that. On top of that, Kerry would largely be the pawn of the Ted Kennedy/Michael Moore crowd, for it is to them he would be beholden to if elected. Plus, if elected, Kerry would take that as a political message to pull out of Iraq and not fight the war with military resources…a Kerry coming into office on these grounds would be even more unlikely to fight than normal.

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