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It’s Inexplicable, Not Inextricable

Here is where the administration has betrayed its own cause and disserved Americans. For four years, it has been incoherent, or flat-out AWOL, in making the public case about why military operations in Iraq are inextricably bound with victory in the greater war against jihadists and their state sponsors. ~Andy McCarthy

The other explanation is that they have not made the case, or have not made a coherent one, because such a case cannot be made.  Mr. McCarthy will strain mightily to fill the gap, but he cannot make a persuasive argument about this.  This is not his fault, since I don’t think anyone could make an actually persuasive rational argument that ties the war in Iraq inextricably to the fight against very specific jihadis with whom we are at war.  What advocates of this linkage must do is make the fight against these very specific jihadis into a war against any and all jihadis everywhere and then say, “Hey, there are some jihadis in Iraq, therefore Iraq has something to do with the larger war.”  This is, simply put, crazy.  There are jihadis in Kashmir, too, but the end of the Kashmiri insurgency has nothing to do with our fight. 

The Cold War ended with the collapse of the USSR, despite the continued official control of China by the CCP, because everyone understood that China was not operating in the power-projecting, superpower mode that the USSR had been.  In the end, the Cold War was decidedly not aimed at fighting all communists everywhere, but was aimed at countering Soviet power and Soviet threats to Western and allied security. 

Are there declared members of Al Qaeda in Iraq?  Yes, obviously.  Does that actually mean that we can never end our military deployment in Iraq so long as there are members of Al Qaeda in Iraq?  Is our entire military policy abroad to be dictated to us in this way?  This doesn’t make any sense.  You don’t use and dull the fine blade of the U.S. military for the equivalent of tending to a few weeds in somebody else’s garden.  In any case, the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq is a direct product of the invasion advocated by the same people who insist on remaining–why should anyone trust their judgement and assessment of what will or will not aid Al Qaeda?  They have been stunningly wrong so far, and I see nothing in their analysis that suggests that they have changed their assumptions or methods in the least.  Besides, to stay in Iraq to get at Al Qaeda is to play their game: it gives them enormous propaganda advantages to have Americans occupying a Muslim country, it gives them priceless opportunities to make us look incapable of providing security to people we have said we will protect, and it has afforded them a natural pool of sympathetic people from whom they could draw new members.  They say it is their central front because they want us to stay there and keep providing them with priceless propaganda victory after priceless propaganda victory.  If we are indeed in a global counterinsurgency, this stream of propaganda can only aid their cause and harm ours. 

However, the bottom line is that Mr. McCarthy believes that the war is just because he firmly believes, in spite of everything that people connected to reality know, that Hussein’s regime had meaningful links to anti-American jihadis when this is not true.  The war isn’t just, and Hussein’s regime didn’t have those links, which makes all the rest of his defense of the Iraq-“war on terror” link that much more strained and pointless.  He doesn’t help himself when he offers “insights” about Iraq’s sectarian warfare such as these:

It is infighting stoked by al Qaeda and the Iranian enablers with whom al Qaeda has colludedsince the early 1990s [bold mine-DL].

This claim of collusion is, not to put too fine a point on it, garbage.  Al Qaeda and the Taliban not only hate Shi’ites and theoretically want them all dead, but the Taliban actively persecuted the Shi’ite Hazaras of Afghanistan, while Iran actively backed the mortal foes of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Tajik and Hazara Northern Alliance.  We all know this.  Iran activelyaided the invasion of Afghanistan by granting overflight rights and could not have been more pleased to see those people overthrown.

If Mr. Bush made a steady effort to tell people about the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq, they would probably be shocked to hear that these people make up perhaps 5-10% of hostile forces.  If this is the “central front” of the “war on terror” that is supposedly more important and dangerous than any other conflict in American history (which is also obviously untrue) and Al Qaeda is only managing to put this small and relatively limited presence in Iraq, they are not only not the epic, global threat the administration has been making them out to be, but they are indeed not much more than the annoyance–a nasty annoyance, but an annoyance nonetheless–that Edward Luttawak recently described the problem of terrorism today as being.  That is why it has been so important for war supporters to conjure up vast forces of “Islamofascists” from all over, why it is imperative to lump in Iran, Jaysh al-Mahdi, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas into one giant blob of jihad that knows no distinctions: because the actual enemy of Al Qaeda is neither so vast nor so threatening as it was originally depicted and must be continually added onto by including new, entirely unrelated enemies.  Al Qaeda is dangerous, and ought to be countered through actual counterterrorism, intelligence and domestic security work, but to frame this–as everyone who uses the Islamofascist label has effectively done–as a sort of WWII replay against Nazislam is to admit that you have no idea what you’re up against and no idea how to counter it.  To admit all this is to admit that the alarmist and well-nigh fanatical vision of a “global war” under these circumstances is ridiculous, as is the attempt to link the Iraq war to such a “global war.”

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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