Home > Iraq > >Democrats can’t face reality that Iraq is the main front in the War on Terror

>Democrats can’t face reality that Iraq is the main front in the War on Terror

>As the Democratic Party works hard to kick an own goal by playing a dangerous game of political chicken through setting a date for surrender in Iraq, it uses as justification a completely upside down argument in which the real front in the war on terror is Afghanistan. The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer demolishes this argument completely:

“Our bill calls for the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq so that we can focus more fully on the real war on terror, which is in Afghanistan” – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, March 8

WASHINGTON — The Senate and the House have both passed bills for ending the Iraq war, or at least liquidating U.S. involvement in it. The resolutions, approved by the barest majorities, were underpinned by one unmistakable theme: wrong war, wrong place, distracting us from the real war that is elsewhere.

Where? In Afghanistan. The emphasis on Afghanistan echoed across the Democratic aisle in Congress from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to former admiral and now Rep. Joe Sestak. It is a staple of the three leading Democratic candidates for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. It is the constant refrain of their last presidential candidate, John Kerry, and of their current party leader, Howard Dean, who complains “we don’t have enough troops in Afghanistan. That’s where the real war on terror is.”

Of all the arguments for pulling out of Iraq, its comparative unimportance vis-a-vis Afghanistan is the least serious.

Let’s take a break from Krauthammer’s piece and have a little look-see at a map of the region just to remind ourselves of where these countries actually are.

As can be seen, Iraq is slap bang in the middle of the oil rich Middle East and Afghanistan is basically in a backwards no-man’s land. Iraq borders Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Kuwait and Iran. Afghanistan borders China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Some facts and figures – Population: Iraq – 27M, Afgh – 31M; GDP: Iraq – $94B, Afgh – $22B; Exports: Iraq – $17B; Afgh – $0.5B; Major asset: Iraq – Oil, Afgh – Dirt. If you were Al Qaeda, which country would make a more attractive base?

And not just because this argument assumes that the world’s one superpower, which spends more on defense every year than the rest of the world combined, does not have the capacity to fight an insurgency in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. But because it assumes that Afghanistan is strategically more important than Iraq.

Thought experiment: Bring in a completely neutral observer — a Martian — and point out to him that the United States is involved in two hot wars against radical Islamic insurgents. One is in Afghanistan, a geographically marginal backwater with no resources, no industrial and no technological infrastructure. The other is in Iraq, one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure which, though suffering decay in the later Saddam years, could easily be revived if it falls into the right (i.e., wrong) hands.

Add to that the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. Then ask your Martian: Which is the more important battle? He would not even understand why you are asking the question.

Al-Qaida has provided the answer many times. Osama bin Laden, the one whose presence in Afghanistan presumably makes it the central front in the war on terror, has been explicit that “the most serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War that is raging in Iraq.” Al-Qaida’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has declared that Iraq “is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era.”

I have never understood why people can’t get it into their heads that opening up Iraq as the main front in the war against Islamic terrorists wasn’t a good idea. It has attracted the majority of potential terrorists to its battlegrounds where they are being taken care of by the US and Iraqi military in battle after battle. Al Qaeda understands that they can’t win militarily and turns to suicide bombings as its main weapon in order to turn public opinion against the US. That the tactic can be effective is a sad indictment of the public’s belief in itself and the virtue of the fight.

And it’s not just what al-Qaida says, it’s what al-Qaida does. Where are they funneling the worldwide recruits for jihad? Where do all the deranged suicidists who want to die for Allah gravitate? It’s no longer Afghanistan, but Iraq. That’s because they recognize the greater prize.

The Democratic insistence on the primacy of Afghanistan makes no strategic sense. Instead, it reflects a sensibility. They would rather support the Afghan war because its origins are cleaner, the casus belli clearer, the moral texture of the enterprise more comfortable. Afghanistan is a war of righteous revenge and restitution, law enforcement on the grandest of scales. As presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden put it, “If there was a totally just war since World War II, it is the war in Afghanistan.”

If our resources are so stretched that we have to choose one front, the Martian would choose Iraq. But that is because, unlike a majority of Democratic senators, he did not vote four years earlier to authorize the war in Iraq, a vote for which many have a guilty conscience to be now soothed retroactively by pulling out and fighting the “totally just war.”

But you do not decide where to fight on the basis of history; you decide on the basis of strategic realities of the ground. You can argue about our role in creating this new front and question whether it was worth taking that risk in order to topple Saddam Hussein. But you cannot reasonably argue that in 2007 Iraq is not the most critical strategic front in the war on terror.

Nostalgia for the “good war” in Afghanistan is perhaps useful in encouraging antiwar Democrats to increase funding that is really needed there. But it is not an argument for abandoning Iraq.

Assume that the US pulls out of Iraq. Then what? Terrorists will be freed up to go and fight in Afghanistan, which surely must lead to a pull out from there, as well. We then end up with Iraq and Afghanistan in the hands of people that seek our destruction. What message does that send to those we supposedly support such as in Pakistan? Make no mistake about it, failure in Iraq will have terrifying consequences. Iraqis will be slaughtered in their millions (such as happened in Vietnam and Cambodia when the Democrats abandoned the South), Al Qaeda will start targeting Western countries and those countries in the region that have been having a bet each way will fall into line with the regional strong horse. How that is good is beyond me.

Categories: Iraq
  1. April 7, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    >Hello.Where did you get your map? I notice that all the capital cities on the map are indicated by stars except for one, Jerusalem.

  2. April 7, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    >Hey, well spotted. I can’t remember where I got it from, as I just Googled for middle east maps.

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