Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bush gives al Qaeda its boogeyman

I don’t think I could say it any better than Gary Kamiya:

Jihadists need their American boogeyman as much as Bush needs his Islamist boogeyman. By fighting them in the wrong way and on the wrong terrain, we have inadvertently allowed them to claim the heroic mantle of nationalism and anti-Americanism. When the U.S. occupiers leave, Osama bin Laden and his ilk will groan in despair. ...

By conflating jihadists with militant, religiously oriented national liberation movements like Hamas, Bush has not only undercut the support we might otherwise have received from Arab populations for police operations against genuine jihadists, he has helped to create toxic new forms of anti-Western extremism. … The irony is that without our help, the jihadists would be struggling to survive. As Gilles Kepel, a French expert on radical Islam, argues in "The War for Muslim Minds," very few Muslims, no matter how radical, support al-Qaida. "Beyond the circle of Bin Laden and Zawahiri and their supporters and admirers ... the majority of Islamists and salafists, let alone most of the world's Muslims, no longer see the commando action carried out by 'the umma's blessed vanguard' against the twin towers and the Pentagon as fulfilling the promise of jihad," Kepel writes. "On the contrary, after the first few seconds of enthusiasm for this blow to America's 'arrogance,' most Muslims saw the massacre of innocents on Sept. 11 as opening the door to disorder and devastation within the house of Islam."

The suggestion that we now leave a bunch of fanatical mass murderers alone may strike most Americans as cowardly and morally contemptible. But what we want are results, not self-righteous campaigns that make matters worse. Bush's righteous war has failed. To leave jihadists alone is not to appease them. It is to plan their isolation and eventual extinction more precisely.

Kamiya goes on to worry about what could happen if al-Qaeda gets established in Gaza or Lebanon.

I’m not that worried about that. I suspect that Egypt would give tacit assent to Israel cracking down in Gaza and that Syria, where a majority is Druze or Alawite or otherwise non-Sunni, that Assad would do the same in Lebanon. (Another reason why it’s absurd for Bush to think AQI is getting support from Damascus.)

Cross-posted at Socratic Gadfly and Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus.