October 26, 2006


What Osama Wants (PETER BERGEN, 10/26/06, NY Times)

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.

To understand why, look to history. Vietnam often looms large in the debate over Iraq, but the better analogy is what happened in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion. During the 1980’s, Washington poured billions of dollars into the Afghan resistance. Around the time of Moscow’s withdrawal in 1989, however, the United States shut its embassy in Kabul and largely ignored the ensuing civil war and the rise of the Taliban and its Qaeda allies. We can’t make the same mistake again in Iraq.

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.

This is silly, of course: nothing could be worse for the Islamicists than for the Sunni to be purged from the rest of Iraq and gathered into a separate state in Western Iraq which would become a free fire zone for both Shi'ites and Crusaders once we had our own troops out of the way. Knocking off regimes could hardly get any easier--insurgencies are tough.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2006 8:55 AM


Your statement is correct, but I'm wondering where the downside kicks in with respect to the Sunni. If we throw all support to the Shi'a, then Egypt, the Saudis, and others will have a chip on their shoulders. And if we are going to take out Mookie (as I think we, or the Iraqis, must do), then we need credibility with the Shi'a. Al-Maliki's statement that there will never be another raid on Mookie's "army" is just bluster (to be sure), but it is a delicate dance for us, no?

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 26, 2006 10:57 AM

Mookie's one of the good guys.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2006 11:57 AM

Mookie is a junior Reinhard Heydrich - you need to be very careful about endorsing him. Don't put your moral compass at risk.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 26, 2006 12:12 PM

Junior Andrew Jackson would be more accurate.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2006 12:17 PM

Yes, if Andrew Jackson was in the pay of the Mexican govt.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 26, 2006 1:29 PM

He was, of course, in the pay of a government foreign to the natives--a minority sect who thought they deserved to govern.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2006 1:42 PM


How do you square this with the already existing Al Qaida/Taliban State in Waziristan? Either we attack them and risk the overthrow of Pakistan, or they metastize like the cancerous scum that that they are.

Zawahiri has his state, and he wants more. We appear too weak (willed) to attack. How long til KJI sells them a bomb?

In theory, Bush is genius. In practice, it seems as if all his detractors are gaining credence. Are we waiting for a "Godfather" ending?

Posted by: Bruno at October 26, 2006 3:52 PM

Waziristan has been lawless forever--there is no state. Al qaeda is as afraid to form one there as we are to go root them out.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2006 4:09 PM

We should re-deploy our troops to guard Iraq's border preventing Iranian Shiites, and Saudi's Sunnis to enter the country, and let the local Iraqis fight it out. There will be peace when they stopped.

Posted by: ic at October 26, 2006 5:51 PM

Iran has nothing to do with it--that's just a neocon pretext.

Posted by: oj at October 26, 2006 6:25 PM

Mookie is a stooge with pretensions. Andrew Jackson was an example of American exceptionalism. Now, to the Brits he may have been a royal pain, but he was never a stooge.

Besides, Mookie is a chubby coward.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 26, 2006 9:29 PM

BTW, this piece contains another example of the decline in standards at the NYT. It is true that the famous phrase is often attributed to Talleyrand -- but the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (3rd ed.) attributes it to one Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe.

(Of course, being French,he actually said "C'est pire qu'un crime, c'est une faute.")

Posted by: Jim Miller at October 27, 2006 8:50 AM