Friday, October 27, 2006

NYT Op-Ed: US Should Not Run For Exits from Iraq

Just for a welcome change of pace from its usual daily dosage of liberal pabulum and foreign policy apologizing for the US being powerful and the world's only credible policeman [now that the UN has demonstrated through Annan and El-Baradei complete incompetence and wooly-minded weakness], the NYT has a sensible Op-Ed on Iraq. Peter Bergen proves the broken-clock principle is alive and well on the NYT Op-Ed page as he weighs into the demerits of American withdrawal from Iraq before there is a semblance of stability established by the Baghdad government. Bergen notes:
A total withdrawal from Iraq would play into the hands of the jihadist terrorists. As Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, made clear shortly after 9/11 in his book “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner,” Al Qaeda’s most important short-term strategic goal is to seize control of a state, or part of a state, somewhere in the Muslim world. “Confronting the enemies of Islam and launching jihad against them require a Muslim authority, established on a Muslim land,” he wrote. “Without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing.” Such a jihadist state would be the ideal launching pad for future attacks on the West.

Bergen goes on to note another huge problem with an American pullout prior to a well-functioning civil Iraqi civil government:
Another problem with a total American withdrawal is that it would fit all too neatly into Osama bin Laden’s master narrative about American foreign policy. His theme is that America is a paper tiger that cannot tolerate body bags coming home; to back it up, he cites President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 withdrawal of United States troops from Lebanon and President Bill Clinton’s decision nearly a decade later to pull troops from Somalia. A unilateral pullout from Iraq would only confirm this analysis of American weakness among his jihadist allies.

Bergen excoriates the Americans for their blundering execution of the post-victory occupation, a series of mistakes that make the overall Iraqi expedition counter-productive and perhaps worse than not having invaded Iraq in the first place. But Bergen says that if we are in for a penny, we'd better be in for a pound:
...for the United States to wash its hands of the country now would give Al Qaeda’s leaders what they want.

This does not mean simply holding course. America should abandon its pretensions that it can make Iraq a functioning democracy and halt the civil war. Instead, we should focus on a minimalist definition of our interests in Iraq, which is to prevent a militant Sunni jihadist mini-state from emerging and allowing Al Qaeda to regroup.

While withdrawing a substantial number of American troops from Iraq would probably tamp down the insurgency and should be done as soon as is possible, a significant force must remain in Iraq for many years to destroy Al Qaeda in Iraq.

That can be accomplished by making the American presence less visible; withdrawing American troops to bases in central and western Iraq; and relying on contingents of Special Forces to hunt militants. To do otherwise would be to ignore the lessons of history, lessons that Al Qaeda’s leaders certainly haven’t forgotten.

If the Dems return to a controlling or at least blocking influence on American foreign policy, center-left thinkers like Bergen and Peter Beinart might be level-headed enough to avert a foreign policy catastrophe which the far-left fever- swamp dwellers advocate with hyperzealous fervor.

Let's hope for America's future that a Democratic takeover doesn't make Osama and his fellow terrorists look like prophets.

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