David Tucker’s post below to the New York Times article about the surge of AQ recruitment efforts is worth reading. And Tucker is right to bring it to our attention.
I take his first point at face value, and agree: for this and other reasons the map I had referenced the other day is not gospel.
Second, I agree that Europe needs to be paid attention to in all this for the reasons the article mentions (excellent recruiting opportunities, many well organized cells, etc) and therefore for this reason (and others) I do not argue that we shouldn’t continue to have excellent relations with the Europeans (all, not just the Old): we need their help to get the bad guys, but, because it is also in their interest, I do not worry much about not getting their help. And yet, the French especially have done us ill at the UN on the Iraq matter, and this is no small thing. The French weren’t doing this just to protect a virtual client state. I believe their reasons were larger, their strategy more long ranged than that. I give them a great deal of credit for a noble attempt at both salvaging what is left of their honor, and of foreshadowing how they will attempt to stifle the hyper-power’s authority in the world now that it is clear to them that they are, alone, never to be a great power again. This was the first French attempt in a post-cold war world to build a coalition against us. This is not tiddlywinks.
Third, my point here is an obvious one: it is also in the interest of the Europeans to get us to think that they are indispensible in such operations; the main sources of the story are German and French officials, with unindentified American counterterrorism officials thrown in. This does not mean that the points brought up aren’t true; yet, the story line is by definition suspect because of its source. After all, it is the French and the Germans who have not wanted us to go into Iraq. And now the French and Germans are saying--just days before we go in--that there will be very grave consequences. It is even possible to see this as a threat.
And my fourth point leads beyond Europe, indeed, the article itself does so. It claims that terrorist training camps have been set up in Chechnya and the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia. We have known about this for many months, much before there was any talk about invading Iraq. Indeed, those camps were being set up right after our success in attacking Afghanistan. They looked for a new home immediately. We thought they would, and we even had suspicions where they might go. Does that mean we should not have attacked Afghanistan, therefore? The answer is no, we should have gone into Afghanistan even knowing the consequences. Is it possible that they will continue to relocate, each time we take them out? Yes it is. Besides, regarding Iraq, as Caesar said when he crossed the Rubicon, alea iacta est.
Tucker asks, in fine, "Are effective terrorists more likely to result from the war than a new Iraq?" The answer is simple. We don’t know. Yet, we can say that we might have more control over establishing a new Iraq than we will limiting AQ recruitment. It is a calculation that we can set up a better Iraq both for Iraqis and for the sake of our interests, than had existed before. It is a pretty good calculation (much easier to do in Iraq, in my opinion, than, for example Syria or Saudi Arabia), but it is only a calculation. There is no certainty in political matters. We are not mathematicians.