Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Tigris and the Volga 

We've been arguing for many months that the West, led by the United States, has suckered al Qaeda into pouring its soldiers and treasure into the Sunni Triangle where we can kill them far away from Western civilians. Not only does this give us the opportunity to hammer away at al Qaeda's assets, but by definition these militants are not available to strike elsewhere. This is not a popular view among the left. Two weeks ago, for example, the New York Times asserted:
The war has not made the world, or this nation, safer from terrorism. The breeding grounds for terrorists used to be Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia; now Iraq has become one.

I thought that the Times was exactly wrong then, and I still think so today.
It seems to me that the second sentence contradicts the first. By forcing the "breeding grounds" for terrorists out of Afghanistan -- where we had no influence before we invaded -- and Saudi Arabia -- where there are both money and multiple connections to the West -- to the Sunni Triangle where we can freely attack and kill the jihadis, we have gained a strategic advantage over the terrorists. More importantly, we are forcing them to defend their position in Iraq. They know that if they lose Iraq to representantive democracy their credibility will be shattered, so they are pouring resources into that country. There is every possibility that Iraq will be their Stalingrad, and that the United States and the West will emerge substantially stronger than it went in. Indeed, the fact that Iraq is attracting jihadis from all over the Arab world makes it obvious, it seems to me, that they are less likely to strike the soft targets in the West.

Of course, jihadis did strike a Western target today, hitting London with six bombs. The most remarkable aspect of the attack, though, was how lame it was. Today's attack was not nearly as destructive as the bomb attacks in Madrid 16 months ago or in Bali three years ago or in New York and Washington four years ago. If this is all the jihadis have left -- an echo of their previous striking power -- then they are at least temporarily weakened.

Wretchard, a smarter man than me by some margin, agrees:
Just a few comments in the aftermath of the attack on London. The first and most important hard fact to grasp is that this Al Qaeda strike, their first against an Anglosphere city since 9/11, has caused much less damage than that on New York. This despite the fact that Al Qaeda has had nearly four years to brood on its humiliations and losses and to plot its revenge. The reasons for this are simple: the enemy is now operating in a much more hostile environment. The accessible methods of mass destruction, such as wide body aircraft, have been secured; not perfectly, but for a defense to work it must only be sufficient to blunt the onslaught of the enemy. Increased surveillance, tighter controls on movement, etc have all played their part. The second reason the enemy is weaker is Iraq. It is widely accepted that thousands of Al Qaeda fighters, the cream of their rancid crop, is fighting to expel the American infidel from the Land Between the Rivers. A moment's reflection will show that if they are there they cannot be elsewhere -- in London, Paris, Rome or Boston -- sowing bombs on buses and trains. Furthermore, fear in formerly smug circles within Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Libya at sharing the fate of Saddam have left terrorists have fewer powerful confederates. Thirdly, allied forces are in contact with the enemy all over the world, buying intelligence with their blood, just as a SEAL team in Afghanistan did. Nothing yields as much information as the act of grappling with the enemy. Liberals often talk about the need to improve intelligence capability without admitting that you can't gather it without being in action against the enemy.

Al Qaeda simply must win its fight in the Sunni Triangle or its credibility will be gone forever. The stakes for al Qaeda go up with every fighter who crosses the border, every car bomb that it explodes in Arab crowds, and every diplomat that it executes. Al Qaeda needs to win its battle of the Tigris for the same reason as the Germans had to win at Stalingrad. Their defeat on the Volga river was not the end of the war, but it was the end of Hitler's chances for victory.

The best way to win in Iraq is to help that country forge the first substantial Arab democracy, which will show the Arab world that there is another way to rid themselves of the illegitimate dictators who lord over them today. The other way to win in Iraq is to kill thousands of jihadis, and fill their sympathizers with despair. We must, therefore, press our advantage as aggressively as possible. Wretchard, again:
The Al Qaeda have characterized the attack on London as 'punishment' for Britain's temerity to resist the inevitability of Islam. It is the kind of punishment these self-ordained masters of the universe are accustomed to meting out against harem women and insolent slaves. A few administered licks, and no doubt the cowardly kuffar will crawl back to his place. The tragedy is that Al Qaeda's perception is perfectly correct when applied to the Left, for whom no position is too supine, no degradation too shameful to endure; but incorrect for the vast majority of humans, in whom the instinct for self-preservation has not yet been extinguished. It will result in history's greatest case of mistaken identity; the mismatch that should never have happened. The enemy is even now dying at our feet, where we should kick him and kick him again.

"Faster. Please."


By Blogger Jehane, at Fri Jul 08, 08:59:00 AM:

Another interesting angle, and one I haven't had time to explore, is *where* the attacks took place.

NOT on Blair's offices. But close to MUSLIM neighborhoods.

The jihadis are so desperate they are going after what they view as "defectors" from radical Islam - like trying to stop a hemorrage in a dying patient.  

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