Eating Their Young

Time magazine has an interesting set of articles exploring the pros and cons of why Iraq has or has not made the United States safer. Author Daniel Benjamin writes that Iraq has made us less safe. Benjamin makes the argument that Iraq has caused an increase in terrorist recruitment, using the bombings in Spain and London as examples.

There are a couple of problems with this analysis. The first is the idea that al-Qaeda would somehow be more prone to hate us because of Iraq. The fact is that al-Qaeda’s hatred of the West includes the Reconquista of al-Andulus in 1492, the Battle of Lepanto, and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Arguing that al-Qaeda needs an excuse to hate the West ignores the fact that the radical Salafist ideology that spawned al-Qaeda hates the West for being the West. They see jihad against all forms of jahiliyya as being the sacred task of every Muslim – and their view of jihad has nothing to do with defense.

Furthermore, Benjamin makes the mistake of arguing that Saddam had no terrorist connections, a statement which is now utterly disproven. At the very least, we know that the Iraqis knew that Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi was in Iraq sometime in 2002, and that they refused to extradite him to Jordan for trial. Furthermore, we have loads of documentary evidence confirming connections between members of al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and others. Stating flatly that Iraq had no terrorist ties is no longer a statement that is supported by the facts, and one would think that someone like Benjamin would know better.

However, it’s Charles Krauthammer who does the most convincing evisceration of the idea that Iraq has made us less safe:

On 9/11, the U.S. was rudely injected into a Muslim civil war–the jihadists are intent on conquering the entire region and re-establishing an ancient caliphate–except that only the jihadist side was really fighting. By taking the fight to the Arab/ Islamic heartland, the U.S. has forced Muslims to commit. The most remarkable effect of the wars to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq is that, whereas on 9/11 we stood alone against the terrorists, today there are two large and energized Muslim populations–with legitimate governments building armed forces–engaged in the same struggle against jihadism as we are.

It is those allies who are critical in ultimately winning the war on terrorism. The terrorists may have recruited their new Atta, now splattered on the walls of the Baghdad mosque he has suicide-bombed. We have recruited tens of millions of Afghan and Iraqi Muslims–with Lebanese and others to follow–opposing that Atta as they attempt to build decent, moderate, tolerant societies.

I’ll take our recruits.

Krauthammer raises an interesting point – but how can we tell which one is correct and which one is not?

We can’t know the number of terrorists being “recruited” because of Iraq. Al-Qaeda isn’t kind enough to give us their monthly recruiting numbers. Trying to illustrate that al-Qaeda has grown stronger or weaker can only be done via inference – and even then the decentralized nature of al-Qaeda makes it a nearly impossible task.

However, we do have some measure of how the invasion of Iraq has truly influenced global Muslim opinion, and the latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey has some very interesting revelations:

Osama bin Laden’s standing has dropped significantly in some pivotal Muslim countries, while support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence has “declined dramatically,” according to a new survey released yesterday.

Predominantly Muslim populations in a sampling of six North African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries share to a “considerable degree” Western concerns about Islamic extremism, according to the poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization.

“Most Muslim publics are expressing less support for terrorism than in the past. Confidence in Osama bin Laden has declined markedly in some countries, and fewer believe suicide bombings that target civilians are justified in the defense of Islam,” the poll concluded.

The poll also found a widespread support for democracy in the Muslim countries surveyed, including support for the rule of law, competitive multiparty elections, and freedom of expression. The concept of democracy in these countries isn’t some amorphous concept – the Muslim world understand what democracy is and why it’s so important.

Why has there been such a shift in attitudes? If the antiwar side is correct, wouldn’t the abuses (both real and imagined) at places like Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, and the violence in Iraq sour the perceptions of democracy in the Arab world? Wouldn’t we be seeing signs of backlash and an increase in radicalism and hatred?

The answer is no, because Iraq has exposed the reality of the global Islamist movement. The events in Iraq have exposed that radical Islamists don’t have any compunction against murdering fellow Muslims indescriminately. The absolute savagery of the violence in Iraq – and the fact that such savagery is being inflicted upon the Iraqi people – illustrates how depraved the Islamofascist movement truly is. Is it any wonder when Muslims find themselves to increasingly be the victims of terrorism that we’re beginning to see a sea change in Muslim attitudes?

Attacks that result of the deliberate death of over a dozen Iraqi children are not a good way of recruiting people to your cause. Contrary to Benjamin’s analysis, it looks as though the insurgency in Iraq is not fueling Muslim animosity towards the West, but rather exposing al-Qaeda as nothing more than a bunch of thugs.

At the same time, the subversive concepts of democracy, free enterprise, and individual liberty are making their way into the Muslim world, countering the effects of radicalist indoctrination. Even if we’re “recruiting” more members of al-Qaeda in the short term, Krauthammer is correct that we’re creating more Muslim democrats in the long term – and there’s now hard evidence which proves his point. The violence and radicalism coming from groups like al-Qaeda is ultimately self-destructive, and the jihadi terrorists are eating their young – so long as the West and moderate Muslims remain resolute against terror these groups are only sowing the seeds of their own destruction.

2 thoughts on “Eating Their Young

  1. Good point about how many anti-war advocates automatically assume that Al-Queda’s recruiting numbers are better because of Iraq. The truth is that it often it takes years after a war before we can truly evaluate its pos./neg. consequences. I’d say when taking into account the Iraqi elections and the various pro-democratic reforms/movements in the Mid-East the war may actually be succeeding in giving moderate Arabs a resolute voice.

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