Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Hornet's Nest

The New York Times has a story today about how intel agencies believe that the Iraq war has spawned a new generation of Islamic terrorists, and that the overall terror threat has grown since 9/11, not lessened despite US and worldwide efforts to deal with terrorists in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.
Rick Moran wonders just exactly what the naysayers think should have been done given that the root causes theories do not address the issue at all. Is doing nothing the proper choice in action? It's a good question, and no one on the Left appears to have any answers other than bring the troops home, which all but concedes the field of battle to the Islamists who will only be energized further by such actions.

Liberty and Justice wonders whether we're seeing an uptick now because it's the last gasp before the extremists peter out. It's a fight that isn't simply measured in months or years, but a long term fight that must be fought.

I actually think both have not addressed the heart of the matter.

We're assuming that the intel agencies were accurately tracking the threats posed by international terrorism, particularly Islamic terrorism, all this time. We clearly did not believe that the threats posed by Islamic terrorists and the firebrand mullahs were a distinct threat, despite their repeated calls to violence since the 1970s. Intel agencies did not devote resources to address the threats, and even the 9/11 Commission report notes as much.

We lack the numbers of translators to do the kind of work necessary to determine what the Islamists are saying on a regular basis. The mullahs were exhorting their followers to jihad for years, and perusing would show that it hasn't let up one bit.

So, instead of thinking that the Iraq campaign has made things worse, consider the following analogy.

We kicked over a hornet's nest by going into Iraq so that we can determine the extent of the problem and are dealing with the situation, which turns out to be far bigger than the agencies, or most anyone else, had thought. Instead of noting their own failures, the NIE instead faults the Iraq campaign as a source of increasing the number of terrorists.

al Qaeda has always been but one Islamic terrorist group among many. Before 9/11, Hizbullah had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group, and yet little was done to penetrate Hizbullah's structure and determine their capabilities. Even Israel was shocked to learn the extent of their mortal enemy, and they've expended quite a bit of intel resources to learning Hizbullah's capabilities.

The US had let its human intel asset gathering capabilities wither on the vine since the 1970s, and little of the assets were devoted to non-Cold War enemy threats. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, little was done to reallign the assets to other threats and regions, including South Asia, Middle East, and Africa.

By tipping the hornet's nest, we're encountering all that which we had either denied existed before now (and averted our eyes from the militant Islamists who were busy preaching away in Islamabad, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and all stops in between) or which we did not know had existed until we started paying closer attention to the problems following 9/11.

I think the truth is somewhere in between of those options. We not only didn't know the extent of the problems before now, but the closer examination of Islamic fundamentalism has shown to be a far greater problem than we thought. These two issues have come to a boil in Iraq, where the Islamists simultaneously show themselves and utilize the country as a battleground testing the resolve of the US to fight this war.

Macranger also utilizes the insect infestation analogy to make a similar point to my own. He also notes the history of Islamic terrorism didn't simply start with 9/11:
The problem isn’t what we have done, because we had to do something. Remember WTC-1, Kohbar Towers, the USS Cole, and 9/11 didn’t happen because we were necessarily attacking Al Qaeda, it was because they are terrorist and they are an evil people who need to be destroyed.
I'd take that even further and note the 1979 embassy hostage situation in Tehran, the 1983 Hizbullah bombing of Marine barracks, and the multitude of bombings and attacks on US interests by Islamic terrorists in between 1983 and 1993.

Ed Morrissey wonders how the report was strangely silent on the growth of militant Islam during the 12 years between 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 war to topple Saddam. It's a good question alright. This report seems to be devoid of any historical context whatsoever, and by focusing on the symptoms, we're missing the underlying problems. The key grafs:
Did that make Islamists more angry? Yes, I'm sure it did, and it probably did give them a great propaganda tool for recruitment. However, here's the crux of the problem: no matter what we do to fight the Islamists and to establish liberal thinking in opposition to them, they're going to get motivated because of it. Even an abject surrender and a return to isolationism will not work, because their victory over us will be an even greater motivational force for Islamist expansion.

We had to conclude the Iraq war in order to fight radical Islamist terrorists. We could not afford to allow Saddam to escape the noose -- which our erstwhile allies on the Security Council tried through the corruption of the Oil-For-Food program -- and to have his miltary on our flank in the region. When the planes flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11, that truth finally dawned on Washington DC -- that the long quagmire in Iraq had seriously endangered the US in the region and beyond, and that we had to end the one war as a part of the new war that terrorist had thrust upon us.
Should it be a surprise that fighting the terrorists and their mad mullahs on their turf will get them angry and lash out at those that they've been fighting against all along? We're fighting the terrorists in their home field - in the Middle East, and they aren't happy about it one bit.

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