Thursday, April 26, 2007
Woulda Been, Coulda Been
Reading Bruce Riedel's latest article on al-Qaeda's resurgence in Foreign Affairs, I couldn't help but wonder how differently things might have turned out had George Bush concentrated on eradicating al-Qaeda and rebuilding Afghanistan in 2003, instead of invading Iraq. Because according to Riedel, Osama Bin Laden anticipated a much longer and costlier war in Afghanistan, and his strategy of drawing us in to bleed us out was dangerously thwarted by the ease and speed with which we defeated the Taliban and deprived him of a secure base of operations:
But thanks largely to Washington's eagerness to go into Iraq rather than concentrate on hunting down al Qaeda's leaders, the organization now has a solid base of operations in the badlands of Pakistan and an effective franchise in western Iraq. Its reach has spread throughout the Muslim world, where it has developed a large cadre of operatives, and in Europe, where it can claim the support of some disenfranchised Muslim locals and members of the Arab and Asian diasporas. Osama bin Laden has mounted a successful propaganda campaign to make himself and his movement the primary symbols of Islamic resistance worldwide. His ideas now attract more followers than ever.
It's a long article but well worth reading, as Riedel makes a number of points I've yet to see mentioned before. Among them:
- That Bin Laden's new base in the Pakistani "badlands" actually facilitates recruitment and expands his global access through the Pakistani diaspora that enjoys lax travel restrictions between Pakistan and England;
- That al-Qaeda fears the growth of Iranian regional influence and might try to provoke a war between the US and Iran with a well-disguised "false flag" attack, thereby using its two strategic enemies to destroy each other;
- That if we effectively target its leadership and improve our public relations efforts in the Muslim world, there's no reason why al-Qaeda can't be neutralized in "short order".
Then there's this:
Iraq is, of course, another critical battlefield in the fight against al Qaeda. But it is time to recognize that engagement there is more of a trap than an opportunity for the United States. Al Qaeda and Iran both want Washington to remain bogged down in the quagmire.
Too bad no one's told the "independent Democratic senator from Connecticut".