Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Same Old Song

Bush's Siren Song has a new inflection these days. Discussing the war on Iraq in Virginia on October 28, 2005, Bush said, "Our goal is to defeat the terrorists and their allies at the heart of their power -- so we will defeat the enemy in Iraq."

Peter Bergen (with Alec Reynolds) explains in Foreign Affairs, Nov. 1, 2005, the failings of this reasoning. (See also Bergen's discussion here.)

"President George W. Bush and others have suggested that it is better for the United States to fight the terrorists in Baghdad than in Boston. It is a comforting notion, but it is wrong on two counts. First, it posits a finite number of terrorists who can be lured to one place and killed. But the Iraq war has expanded the terrorists' ranks: the year 2003 saw the highest incidence of significant terrorist attacks in two decades, and then, in 2004, astonishingly, that number tripled. (Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously complained in October 2003 that "we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror." An exponentially rising number of terrorist attacks is one metric that seems relevant.) Second, the Bush administration has not addressed the question of what the foreign fighters will do when the war in Iraq ends. It would be naive to expect them to return to civilian life in their home countries. More likely, they will become the new shock troops of the international jihadist movement."

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

FYI: Block quotes of fifty words or four lines or more do not require quotation marks.

PiedPiper said...

My other favorite siren song is the ol' riff that essentially states, increased violence means the terrorists are becoming increasingly desperate. We've been hearing that since, oh, about July '03. It always leaves me wondering, how much desperation can these terrorists stand? I mean, do we have any proof of how desperate they are? What are the different levels of desperation, and do we have any measurements on the terrorists? Where is the critical point of desperation?

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

The increasing desperation bit/last throes is obnoxious and misleading. Most military analysts say this type of an insurgency lasts about a decade and by that measurement we have 8 years of varying intensity to ride it out if we are to stay. There are basic indications of fissures within the insurgency and terrorism in general as evidenced by the letter sent from Zwahiri's letter to Zarqawi as he pleads with Zarqawi to stop bombing mosques (bad pr) and to loan him 100 k (it seems like a good thing that Al Qaeda's number 2 has to hit someone up for cash). But these are brief glimmers of hope. The fact is this Administration did not do its homework. People say that the Bush Administration has mislead America on the war, and certainly that is up for debate, but I think it would be more accurate is to say that their assumptions going into the war were foolishly naive.

On another note, though, I want to address the issue of the rise of terrorism. Once you determine you have to go after terrorists, it does seem that you will be going after them to some extent militarily. This will in the short term incite further militarism. The question though is can you make political gains and diplomatic gains that will undermine terrorism in the long run. It is on this point that the administration should be judged.

PiedPiper said...

I think you make some good points, X. In some ways, it's important to look at the insurgency in Iraq and terrorism separately, yet in other ways, they seem inextricably linked. The Iraqi insurgents are not necessarily related to terrorist cells spread throughout the world, such as the one responsible for the London bombings. Yet, the war in Iraq is a rallying cry among fundamentalist Muslim groups the world over. Unfortunately, in order to answer your question of whether militarism in the (relatively) short term allows for political and diplomatic gains in the long term will take a decade or more to really come to fruition. Much come happen within the militaristic realm during that time period. Besides, do Americans really have the patience and wherewithal for such engagements? I doubt it.

I wonder, however, how the short-term militarism - particularly the mistakes and naivete that plagued the administration in the run-up to the war and throughout its commission - adversely affects the interests of politics and diplomacy. As long as the US is seen as working without backing from the international community, our diplomatic position appears weakened. We are, of course, the US, and therefore - with or without the international community - countries are forced to deal with us. Yet, when we are seen not as working in the interest of ourselves and the rest of the world, but only for ourselves, I can't help but think that our position is different, and worse, then it would be with actual support.

And now I'm going to go outside and fly my UN flag just to piss you off.

xtrachromosomeconservative said...

I think it is clear that we have compromised ourselves diplomatically in some regards. That is clear, but that picture is more nuanced than the left is keen on portraying. For instance, we have seen two reactions in the "Arab Street". One, has been a steady recruitment of terrorists. I think that is undeniable. However, conversely, we have seen an outpouring in futherance of popular government that was not fathomable a couple years prior. Clearly, Egypt's elections were token, but the regime does feel the pressure internally from democratic forces as opposed to its homespun fundamentalists. Kuwait now has female suffrage. Saudia Arabia has made a token concession in the form of municipal elections, but one nonetheless. And there is of course lebanon. A huge change. But more importantly, if the latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey (or whatever is called) is considered reliable, we have seen precipitous decline in popular support for suicide bombs, killing of civilians and other types of metrics that would indicate something of a moderation of the collective polity of the Arab and Muslim world.

PiedPiper said...

Yes, I agree. But with those metrics, and with those - sometimes significant, mostly token - advances in liberal democray, you have to take into account time. With constant diplomatic pressure, backed up with rewards of medical, food, educational and military aid and outreach, token movements toward democracy can become significant. Those movements, however, can backfire rapidly and severely when mistakes are made in our short-term militarism. Or if there's a flare-up with Iran. Or Pakistan. Or Syria. Or...

I don't claim to have the answers here. I think in some ways both the left and the right are looking at the war far too simplistically. One says "Get out now," the other says "Stay the course." Getting out now risks losing even the token gains that have been made; staying the course risks derailing the entire process, increased resentment against the West, and further alienation of the Middle East, all that massive expense of US lives and money.

Damned if you do; damned if you don't.

Jenn of the Jungle said...

More damned if you do.