Sunday, September 24, 2006

Don't Like to Say 'I told you so,' but . . .

"2. Global Muslim support is essential to a successful war on terrorism. Threatening war with Iraq increases Muslims’ hatred – and terrorists’ recruiting. What benefits from war in Iraq exceed the costs of increased terrorism here?"

This was the second in my "Ten Questions for Bush Before War," an op ed column published February 4, 2003, before the President launched the Iraq War. (Click on the link if you're interested in the other nine equally prescient questions.)

This morning's (September 24) New York Times reports that a current "National Intelligence Estimate" -- the consensus product of our government's 16 spy agencies -- has now come to the same conclusion as the implication of my now nearly 44-month-old question. Mark Mazzetti, "Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat," New York Times, September 24, 2006 (also available here).

The story begins:

"A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a . . . direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism . . ..

"The intelligence estimate . . . represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States, it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

"An opening section of the report, 'Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,' cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

"The report 'says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,' said one American intelligence official."

For a listing of other of my writings about the subject, see "Terrorism and the War in Iraq."

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Anonymous said...

I opposed going into Iraq too, but I wonder what you think should have been done about Saddam's refusal to comply with UN Security resolutions, ongoing Food For Oil program corruption, repeated violations of the No-Fly zone ...

I also opposed economic sanctions generally because I find that they punish civilians while the leaders remain mostly unaffected. So, for me that also was not a solution.

I would have supported coordination with Kurdish and Shiite organizations to kill Saddam and his sons (who are worse than he was). Unfortunately, The US has a policy against targeting for assassination the people responsible for a country's bad acts. I wonder what you would have suggested?

Nick said...

James: I (like you) don't claim to have all the answers. Clearly, I don't have educational/professional credentials with such matters.

My horseback sense is that we do have some level of obligation to all life on earth, and certainly humankind. I certainly don't advocate a "fortress America" isolationism.

On the other hand, we simply have neither the resources nor the wisdom to solve all of the world's problems. Nor do we have the right, I think, to make judgments for others regarding what we know to be better for them than what they have chosen for themselves (or had foisted upon them).

Putting the best face on it, giving the Bush Administration the benefit of the doubt that their intentions were an honorable desire to improve the lot of the Iraq people, Iraq stands as a classic example of how often and easily such seemingly well meaning efforts can end in a disastrously opposite state of affairs from what was intended.

There are a great many countries and peoples for whom I wish better than what they have, many world leaders whom I wish were not in the positions of power that they are -- and utilizing and abusing that power in the ways that they are.

At a minimum, picking who we're going to "help" requires a kind of triage by us of all the world's countries, and the various minority and other groupings within those countries. I don't know how Iraq would have ranked following such an assessment, but it's not obvious to me that it was a greater risk to us than North Korea, or a greater source of terrorists and their financing than Saudi Arabia, or involved greater brutality than Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Darfur, or the former Burma, etc.

Are there absolutely horrible situations in which the best America can do is nothing? Yes, regretfully, I suspect that is often the case. Even more often, I imagine, is it the case that, as the bumper sticker has it, "Whatever is the question, war is not the answer."

-- Nick