Entrapment


Iraq, as Princeton's Michael Doran observed, was intended to be the graveyard of America's counteroffensive against terror. Instead the enemy dug the grave for themselves. What we are seeing now is not simply the rout of a few armed men, but terror's greatest defeat in modern times.

Wretchard the Cat of Belmont Club, in Campaign


Iraq has provided the United States a unique opportunity to engage al Qaeda in the heart of the Middle East. After the assault of Afghanistan, the rout of the Taliban and the inevitable scattering of al Qaeda, a new front was needed to draw out and engage the forces of Islamofascism. Afghanistan itself was not sufficient to engage al Qaeda, as it is in the backwaters of Central Asia, far removed from the heart of the Middle East - the wellspring of Islamist terror.

Iraq was the logical choice for the next step in the Global War on terror for several reasons - open defiance of the United States and the United Nations, brutality towards its own citizens as well as other nations, geographical location, ties to terrorism, concealment of its WMD program and the need to establish America's willingness to fight the enemy on their own turf.

It was inevitable that al Qaeda would answer the challenge to Iraq. Al Qaeda viewed America as a "paper tiger" after numerous withdrawals and tepid responses to terrorism, starting with the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983 to the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. America was viewed as having no staying power and could not stomach casualties to its soldiers. Al Qaeda was also emboldened by the success of the mujahedeen against the Soviet Union, culminating in the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. Foreign Arab fighters teamed up with local Afghan fighters and inflicted enormous casualties on the numerically superior Soviet Red Army. Al Qaeda believed it could duplicate its success in Iraq by teaming up with local jihadis and elements of the deposed Baathist regime.

Al Qaeda miscalculated. Iraq is not Afghanistan, and the United States is not the Soviet Union. Al Qaeda's need to confront the Americans in Iraq - and make no mistake, they could not ignore the American presence, as this would be a tacit admission of weakness - has forced them to demonstrate their utter depravity to the Arab world. No longer could the Arab world ignore the real nature of al Qaeda and Islamist terror. The Arab media, in their attempts to glorify the "resistance" and portray Iraq as a failure, have exposed the true character of terrorists as well as the exuberance of the Iraqi people to defy them and vote.

Princeton's Michael Doran recently lectured on the grand strategy of al Qaeda, and stated a main goal of al Qaeda is to radicalize a segment of the Muslim youth against the West. Tigerhawk summarizes as follows:

It is not necessary, according to al Qaeda, that they get the great masses on their side. The goal is to win over "an important segment of the youth." Their propaganda is directed to young men. One of their propagandists says that "if we can win over only 5% of one billion Muslims, we will have an unbeatable army."

The 50,000,000 Islamist fighters have yet to materialize. The dearth of recruits for Iraq and the lack of passion to fight in Afghanistan indicate these goals are not being met. In fact, in Iraq, the children are assisting the coalition in sniffing out terrorist attacks. Robin Burk hosts an account by Captain Sam Donnelly, who is stationed in Tikrit, Saddam's home town (this post also has a great photos and interesting accounts of Army infantry amphibious training and an assault):

"The valuable intelligence we receive from both the local citizens as well as the Iraqi Security Forces (Army and police) have proven to be extremely effective, resulting in no IEDs being detonated on us before we discover them  3rd platoon discovered this one with the help of a little kid who visits the gate to our FOB just about every day."

Mariam Fam reports in the Associate Press that more and more Iraqis are turning in terrorists (hat tip to Mrs. G at The Mudville Gazette):

The growing willingness of Iraqis to cooperate with officials is perhaps also a testimony to the insurgency's own mistakes, which have cost it the sympathy of some. Many say they simply are tired of violence that has overshadowed their lives or claimed people they love  In a sign the phenomenon is gathering momentum, some Iraqis told The Associated Press that when they called in information, they were told others already had reported the same incident...

Fatma shows how her impression of the "holy fighters" has changed since the Iraqi people have been exposed to their brand of "religion" :

In one case, Iraqi Fatma peeked out the window of her Mosul home and saw masked men lobbing mortars at a nearby army base for the third time. She decided it would be the last, and reported the men.

"How can an Iraqi kill another Iraqi, can a brother kill his brother? I cannot let that be," said Fatma, a 26-year-old housewife who asked that only her first name be used for fear of attacks against informants. "At first, I used to think of them as holy fighters. But after what we've been seeing on television, it became clear they were terrorists."

Even those who loath the American occupation can no longer tolerate the nihilism of the Islamists:

Omar Mohammed Abdullah, a 30-year-old college student in Samarra, said he'd had enough of the explosions that shattered windows and terrified children in his neighborhood. After the militants refused to take their fight outside of the city, he reported a group planting roadside bombs on his street in Samarra, where security forces broadcast the telephone numbers for hotlines over loudspeakers.

"Before, the people sympathized very much with the resistance. They were helping and encouraging them," Abdullah said. "Now, the people are hurting and are seeing no benefit in this. They started attacking the Iraqi forces because they want chaos to prevail."

Critics of the Iraq War often cite the polarizing effect the American occupation will have on the Muslim world. But as Fatma, Abdullah and a host of other Iraqis who are turning in the jihadis they used to admire demonstrate, it is al Qaeda and the Islamofascists who are being marginalized in the Muslim world. Because of this Iraq is serving as a graveyard of radical Islam.



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READER COMMENTS: "Entrapment"

Posted by lgude at April 8, 2005 8:19 AM ET:

Just a great post. I agree that the absolutely awful behaviour of the Islamofacists has been a big factor in turning the tide against them...in the Middle East, if not in the West and in the Western Press. Prof Doran has done a great service by giving us a serious interpretation of Al Q's Grand Strategy. I think it is fruitful to compare the American Grand Strategy as presented by John Lewis Gaddis - most recently here http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20050101faessay84101-p0/john-lewis-gaddis/grand-strategy-in-the-second-term.html

I think looking at both together confirms that your analysis is very accurate indeed, even though it seems to me that thee is still much that can go wrong.

Posted by Ben at April 8, 2005 10:24 AM ET:

Your analysis leaves out some important facts: that our very presence has been the main destabilizing force in the country and our inability to utilize soft power to achieve our goals has created an insurgency that never needed to exist. The facts don't agree with your assesment either: American casualties are not going down, as they should be, if the insurgency is dying. Of course, we can hunker down and say that we're in it for the long haul, but all that means is that we're committing to winning the pissing contest at the expense of actually winning the peace...in my opinion. I'm not saying that we were not justified in invading Iraq, given the circumstances, but that does not imply that the methods of implementation are correct.

Posted by The Redhunter at April 8, 2005 11:45 AM ET:

"Iraq has provided the United States a unique opportunity to engage al Qaeda in the heart of the Middle East"

Here here. No more are we poking around the edges of the enemy camp, taking out a picket guard every now and then. No "containment" or tepid 'rollback'.

No, we seized the enemy Headquarters in bold strike. We took many of their generals captive and cut their lines of supply and communications.

Most importantly, we are on the Strategic Offensive. Had we stayed out of Iraq, the most we could have maintained was the occasional tactical offensive. Strategically, we would have still been on the defensive, whether we knew it or not.

We have taken the war to them and forced them to fight us on their own territory.

No the people in the ME are not all going to love us. They don't have to, though. All they have to do is get rid of their dictatorships, form governmnents that are at least somewhat representative, and it will be a huge improvement. Democracies don't fight each other.

Posted by Mark Buehner at April 8, 2005 4:34 PM ET:

"Your analysis leaves out some important facts: that our very presence has been the main destabilizing force in the country and our inability to utilize soft power to achieve our goals has created an insurgency that never needed to exist"

Thats a bold, and I might add, unproveable statement. Especially considering the amount of evidence indicating the Baathist pre-war planning for an insurgency. On the other hand there is no question there are many things we could have done far better that would have improved our position at this point. Of course were Iraq significantly more stable AQ and other jihadis wouldnt be coming there to die. The craziness of war.

"American casualties are not going down, as they should be, if the insurgency is dying"

As i understand it attacks are down by nearly 50%. Im not sure about American casualties but assumedly as attacks decrease casualties will as well. Beyond the statistics, its important to note that a long period went by where the enemy was targetting Iraqi collaberators and just recently have large scale (and ill conceived) attacks on Americans resumed which is likely to skew the scale. Its axiomatic that any time a guerilla force engages in a conventional battle they have already lost.

Posted by Mixed Humor at April 11, 2005 12:17 AM ET:

"...our very presence has been the main destabilizing force in the country."

I agree...destabilizing to Zarqawi's network, destablizing to former Sunni regime thugs, and destablizing to foreign jihadists. As for the Shi'ite and Kurds, Iraq was never a bastion of stability, and in fact was anything but.

At what point should we have ejected from Iraq, prior to the January elections?