OBL was right

Bernard Lewis wrote a very thought provoking article on a subject I have been thinking about for a few years. His conclusion:

Stage One of the jihad was to drive the infidels from the lands of Islam; Stage Two--to bring the war into the enemy camp, and the attacks of 9/11 were clearly intended to be the opening salvo of this stage. The response to 9/11, so completely out of accord with previous American practice, came as a shock, and it is noteworthy that there has been no successful attack on American soil since then. The U.S. actions in Afghanistan and in Iraq indicated that there had been a major change in the U.S., and that some revision of their assessment, and of the policies based on that assessment, was necessary.

More recent developments, and notably the public discourse inside the U.S., are persuading increasing numbers of Islamist radicals that their first assessment was correct after all, and that they need only to press a little harder to achieve final victory. It is not yet clear whether they are right or wrong in this view. If they are right, the consequences--both for Islam and for America--will be deep, wide and lasting.

I think it is pretty clear that they are right and the US is the paper tiger OBL thought it was. Only the stubbornness of George W Bush has kept us from slinking off in defeat from Iraq and the lesssons of Iraq have been learned well, both in Washington and the rest of the world. A government will be able to support terrorism and thumb its nose at the rest of the world and all the US will do is pointless whining and empty threats. Rogue governments have nothing to fear from the US except trade embargoes which will impoverish the people while making the regimes more secure. Potential allies know that we are a fair weather friend and can not be relied on in a fight. The implications for the Middle East are relatively easy to anticipate, the status quo and lots of it, but the implications for the US are not as clear. Will we make changes to our policies and what will they be? or, more likely, we will just carry on as if nothing has happened, like one who looks in a mirror and forgets what he has seen when he looks away.

Here is the url for the article:

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It's not "OBL" it's "The OBL", get it right.

Policy vs. Perception

Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that invading Iraq and continuing to occupy it were not sound policies. And suppose withdrawing from Iraq carries the risk of pleasing or encouraging bin Laden and other terrorists. Is it your argument that we should base our decisions, not on what we believe is the best policy, but on the opposite of what we think bin Laden wants us to do?

It seems to me that how we are perceived is a factor, but a relatively small factor, in deciding whether to wage war. Whether the war makes sense, in terms of its various costs and benefits, is a much larger factor than whether it is pleasing or displeasing to bin Laden.

By analogy, suppose you are digging a pit looking for buried treasure. Someone on the ledge of the pit yells down to you that the best available evidence indicates the treasure is buried elsewhere. You realize that climbing out of the pit emptyhanded might make you look weak in front of your rivals. So you keep digging yourself deeper and deeper into the hole, believing this will demonstrate your resolve. It may, but it also might make you look foolish, with your rivals secretly relishing the sight of you wasting your energy on a fruitless endeavor.

Now, quite likely you believe the invasion and occupation of Iraq were sound policies, but this is what the argument should hinge on. Similarly, whether you dig a pit should depend on whether there is good reason to believe treasure lies under that spot, not on whether digging will impress or discourage your rivals.

True but

If the benefits of ending the war outweigh the costs than the right thing to do is to end the war. However, we should not pretend that it will not have costs. Encouraging Al Queda is one of those costs.

I don't think you even know to define success

"Only the stubbornness of George W Bush has kept us from slinking off in defeat from Iraq and the lesssons of Iraq have been learned well, both in Washington and the rest of the world."

Talk about defeatist. I say we declare victory and leave. Which we could have done a long time ago. If you measure success by our ability to make the followers of Islam act rationally then we will never be successful.

If we sell it who will buy it

I don't have much faith in the intelligence of my fellow human beings, but I do not think calling defeat victory will convince many.

We had victory but we got ambitious

Overthrowing Saddam was victory. We could have done what Bush I's promise (to be there for an Iraqi overthrow of Hussein) would have entailed: allowed the Iraqis to take care of the situation. Hussein was our enemy. Whatever government succeeded him would not automatically be our enemy and we would have made an example of Hussein. But we decided we moreover wanted to repeat the success of the rebuilding of defeated Japan and Germany, and now the terrorists will have made an example of us if we leave today.

It's obviously a lot easier - apparently by orders of magnitude - to destroy a Middle Eastern despotic government than it is to build a Middle Eastern democracy. Before the invasion of Iraq I was against it because I thought the US could not afford to fix all the world's problems. But the ease with which we destroyed Hussein's government suggests otherwise. Maybe a better strategy than trying to establish a democracy would have been to overthrow every non-democracy in the Middle East, or at least Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

We were and are invulnerable in the Middle East. What makes us "vulnerable" is not our own vulnerability but the vulnerability of the millions of Iraqis and Afghanis who we have decided it was our job to protect. As long as we were merely an invading and conquering force, no one could touch us.

It's probably a good thing I'm not President.

Yes mostly and no

I agree except I don't think the terrorists will have made an example of us if we leave. Especially if a new president comes in and says that he/she doesn't share the objectives of the prior administration.

By killing innocents (even on their own side) and destroying mosques they have only shown their own depravity. The military toll they have cost us in terms of human life is tiny compared to what they pay with every engagement.

I know you weren't saying this but It's just plain silly to talk about us having "lost". Lost what? From the beginning we had said that we were not their to steal their resources, subjugate them, colonize them or whatever. We were there to punish Saddam and we did that. We were also there to set up a democracy and we did that in a fashion.

We didn't achieve certain goals but that's not our fault. The subjects of our charity are unworthy.

If I were president what I'd do is change the Iraqi constitution to be in line with a limited government that supports individual rights, and then leave. I'd warn outsiders not to interfere. Then if they can't hold it together that's their own fault. Then I'd move on to the next country that's supporting terrorism. Of course this time I would not rebuild their infrastructure.

So it's probably a good thing I'm not President either.

Lost in the sense of

The purpose of war is not to kill people but to achieve political objectives by killing people. Our objective was to change the regime from a genocidal one to one that respects human rights and fights terrorism. The terrorist's objective is to get the US to leave Iraq so they can take over. Our objective is much more difficult than their's, but if they achieve their objective's through killing while we are thwarted in ours, that is defeat by any reasonable standard.


Can you add in a link to the Lewis article?