On Flypaper

The Moderate Voice takes on the argument that the London bombings disprove the “flypaper” theory in Iraq:

The problem with both of these analyses, if you totally divorce yourself from left or right thinking is this: there really is no proof that the bombs in London would not have gone off if the U.S. was now out of Iraq.

And even if terrorists are gaining recruits in Iraq, if the U.S. wasn’t in Iraq they would likely get their recruits elsewhere since the Al Qaeda philsophy reportedly appeals to some Muslim youths for reasons apart from the Iraq war. That’s why it has grown so much over the years.

It’s highly doubtful that if the U.S. wasn’t now in Iraq that Osama bin Laden would today be out of his mass-murderer day job, standing behind a counter, wearing a bright cap, asking: “Do you want fries with that?”

Al-Qaeda’s list of beefs with the West go all the way back to Poitiers and the Reconquista. The argument that had we stayed in Afghanistan none of this would have happened is fatuous at best. Al-Qaeda wouldn’t have stayed in Afghanistan – they’ve been gone since December of 2001. The Taliban is still around, but the Taliban doesn’t have the capability to inflict damage outside of Afghanistan. Stategically, Afghanistan isn’t that important in this war.

Bin Laden himself is almost assuredly on the Pakistani side of the border. An invasion of Pakistan is simply too risky since Pakistan has nuclear weapons. All it would take is one nuke and millions could be dead in India, Kashmir, or elsewhere. Stirring up that particular hornet’s nest is just too dangerous to contemplate. Getting bin Laden would be an important moral victory, but not at the cost of risking a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of terrorists.

Iraq remains critical to winning this war because the only to win over the long-term is to end the systems that support and foster terrorism. Islamic terrorism is by and large a direct result of the cultural failure of the Arab world. The only way of dealing with terrorism over the long-term is to jump-start the process of democratization. That means creating a new Arab civil society that doesn’t poison its people and spread radical Islam worldwide. Without the support of Arab radicals in the Middle East, it’s going to be that much easier to end radicalism in other places. To borrow Deep Throat’s famous exhortation, we need to follow the money – and that trail of money leads right into the Middle East.

Iraq was the logical place to begin the process. Putting troops into the land of the Prophet himself would ensure that all Muslims would see our actions as a direct attack on Islam itself — more certainly not what we want to do. Iran, Syria, Jordan, etc, all provide us with no reasonable causus belli. There would have been no chance of any international support for an attack against a country simply because they were a state sponsor of terrorism. Iraq’s intransigence to the Gulf War cease-fire agreement meant that sooner or later, we’d have to deal with Saddam. Doing so when we’re already committed elsewhere would make things much more difficult.

The fact is that no matter what, regardless if invading Iraq were right or wrong, we’re there now, and so is al-Qaeda. Demanding our immediate and unconditional withdrawal from Iraq signals to al-Qaeda that we’re not willing to fight.

The al-Qaeda strategy for this war is quite clear: they know that hitting us will very likely engender the post-9/11 response – we’ll hit back and hit back hard. What they’re trying to do is weaken our resolve by hitting our allies. Madrid proved that strategy could work, and if al-Qaeda can get Britain to bow into terrorism and leave Iraq (as the vicious fifth columnist George Galloway suggests), then al-Qaeda believes that it would significantly weaken American resolve to also stay in Iraq.

If Iraq were a “distraction” from the war on terrorism, al-Qaeda wouldn’t be so willing to fight there. Instead, their strategy is clearly designed to push us out of Iraq. They know full well that if Iraq succeeds, they wave of democratic sentiment in the Middle East will destroy their ideological and strategic home ground.

It is beyond imperative that the West not abandon Iraq, and continue to put pressure there. The resources of groups like al-Qaeda are not infinite, and the argument that had we not been in Iraq there would be no terror attack in London is both fatuous and wrong, as Gandelman explained.

If we truly wanted to be “safe”, at the very least we’d have to remove all our troops from not only Iraq, but Afghanistan, and every other Arab country. Then we’d have to assume that the expansionist elements of radical Islam don’t decide that the Middle East is not enough. Even if that were true, the moral depravity of consigning millions to abject theocratic tyranny is a bargain that no moral leader could accept.

Pulling out of Iraq won’t make things better. The terrorists demands are non-negotiable, and the very existence of Western culture is an existential threat to groups like al-Qaeda. The argument for what amounts to appeasement is a throwback to the blind ignorance of the Sept. 10th days in which governments believed that terrorism was little more than a nuisance – something akin to organized crime that’s a law enforcement and not a military issue.

We can’t afford to cling to those shattered dogmas anymore. Terrorism is a serious threat, and had the London bombings used chemical or biological weapons tens of thousands rather than less than 100 would be dead at this point. Had it been a nuclear weapon, there would be no London at all. We can’t afford the risks inherent in waiting for that to happen. By the time a terrorist gets to the US or the UK, the chances of stopping them decrease dramatically.

Had we not been in Iraq, al-Qaeda would still be plotting to attack us. Their hatred runs much deeper than that. Clinging to an illusory sense of security rather than dealing with the issue won’t solve the problem of terrorism – the only way to do that is to attack the problem at its source. President Bush understands this. Prime Minister Blair understands this as well. The question is, will the people of America and the UK have the strength necessary to carry through in this war? Al-Qaeda believes that we will not — it remains as imperative as ever to prove them wrong.

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