It's time to go
What Osama Wants
By PETER BERGEN
Published: October 26, 2006
THE French saying, often attributed to Talleyrand, that “this is worse than a crime, it’s a blunder,” could easily describe America’s invasion of Iraq. But for the United States to pull entirely out of that country right now, as is being demanded by a growing chorus of critics, would be to snatch an unqualified disaster from the jaws of an enormous blunder.
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.
And there is no riper spot than the Sunni-majority areas of central and western Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — the most feared insurgent commander in Iraq — was issuing an invitation to Mr. bin Laden when he named his group Al Qaeda in Iraq. When Mr. Zarqawi was killed this year, his successor, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, also swore allegiance to Al Qaeda’s chief.
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.
Yes, there is little doubt that the botched American occupation of Iraq was the critical factor that fueled the Iraqi insurgency. But 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.
I'm sorry, but this is bullshit.
The US military is at a breaking point. There are fewer and fewer new soldiers and the quaility of them has dropped dangerously low. This cannot be sustained for years. NATO isn't going to continue to take the heavy losses they are in Afghanistan. The Brits and Canadians are getting hammered. If the US stays in Iraq, they will eventually pull up stakes.
Special Forces are not supermen. They have families and opportunties and more years in Iraq at Army pay isn't going to happen. And the Shia are getting sick of us. AQ isn't the issue, because the Shias will turf them out. They are not going to let them have a mini-anything in Anbar. But the point when the US occupation becomes untenable is when the Shia decide it is.
Years in Iraq? No fucking way.
posted by Steve @ 3:59:00 AM