Monday, February 19, 2007

"The biggest recruiting tool of all"

With today's post, I would like to address something administration spokes toady Tony Snow said on Meet the Press.
But I’ll tell you, you want something to go wrong? Have the United States leave before the job’s done in Iraq, and invite al-Qaeda—give al-Qaeda the biggest recruiting tool of all, which is to say we made the Americans leave.
Having this administration lecture the citizenry on what will and will not prove a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda is to define the phrase ignorant temerity. If the chickenhawks running this show had any understanding of our enemies recruiting tools, they would never have started this war in the first place. The invasion of Iraq is becoming more and more widely acknowledged as one of the greatest blunders in American history. It would be bad enough if we simply went in and found ourselves inextricably bogged down... but it's even worse than that.

Let me spell out how this war is worse than just a typical "imperialist" type adventure leading to occupation quagmire. If you read my blog on a regular basis, thank you mom and step dad, but you've already read this opinion several times. But by golly I think it's so very very important. So here is why this war is worse than your typical military adventure gone off the tracks...

We are involved in a global struggle against a virulently militant sect of Islam. Going forward I will refer to this struggle as the global war on terror, war on terror, gwot, or wot, not because those terms describe the situation we find ourselves in perfectly, but because it is the widely accepted terminology for the struggle. This struggle has been ongoing for decades, but previous to 9/11, the wests (beyond Israel's) involvement was mainly political and law enforcement in nature, with occasional military actions. Well, of course 9/11 changed that, and from my perspective properly so.

However the military component after 9/11 ought to have been chiefly used to bring an end to the regime of the Taliban, attendant with rooting Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. As far as war is concerned, the invasion of Afghanistan was entirely justified. The world recognized this and supported Americas leadership in the effort with a truly global coalition assisting us. The American led coalition made quick work of the Taliban, and everything to that point was fine...

However, once the military component in the war on terror became necessary, it is as if the Bush administration completely failed to recognize the importance of the political and law enforcement aspects of the fight. Law enforcement was jumbled together with the military's handling of detainees, leading to the embarrassment of Guantanamo Bay, which in turn led to the Al Qaeda recruiting tool of Abu Ghraib.

The political side in the war on terror is barely a fig leaf for Bush administration bluster and saber rattling. Diplomacy for these folks comes down to "you are with us or you are against us", and if you are on the other side, talking to you somehow validates your position. Since when has diplomacy been reserved for those who agree with us?

But American diplomacy took the biggest hit with the Presidents blunder into Iraq. Prior to that invasion, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the President was given unheard of levels of support both domestically and internationally. He squandered that by invading Iraq with next to no international support. Furthermore, the justifications used by the administration to take this nation to war were based upon falsehoods leading to acrimony when the truth became apparent. The loss of this political support for the administration has drastically curtailed American effectiveness with our ability to work with police in nations once allied with us, but now opposed to our administration. For one small example, consider that suspects in foreign lands now appeal their extraditions to American custody by claiming in their courts that they may be interned at Guantanamo Bay. In effect these suspects plead that placing them in American control is the same as rendering them to a nation that will torture them. And the awful truth is, they are justified in believing this!

Yet the loss of international political support leading to the loss of effectiveness of law enforcement and diplomacy is just the beginning of the reasons that Iraq may justly be concluded to be the greatest strategic blunder in American history. One of the greatest reasons this invasion was so massive a blunder is due to precisely the reason Tony Snow so boldly mentioned as a justification to continue the mistake. When Snow describes withdrawal as the biggest recruiting tool of all, he has it precisely backwards. It is the invasion and occupation of Iraq that have inflamed the Arab world, and given Al Qaeda their dream recruiting tool. George Bush could not have acted more in the interests of Al Qaeda with the invasion of Iraq if he had been taking orders directly from Osama Bin Laden. It is Bush and his mistaken policies that are the biggest recruiting tools for our enemies, not correcting those mistakes... All the hot air and jingoism from this administration can not change that.

We will only begin to mitigate this error when we acknowledge it, and take corrective measures.

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