Monday, October 02, 2006

Election Outcome Will Determine Fate of Iraq

by Tom McClanahan

Last week, President Bush declassified key portions of an intelligence analysis to counter leaked versions reported by the press. But as Washington flaps go, this one didn’t amount to much.
For all the headlines, the public version of the document offered little more than any consumer of news with access to the Internet didn’t discern already.

The declassified National Intelligence Estimate said al-Qaida has been seriously damaged, but the threat is becoming more diffuse. The analysts who wrote the document said jihadists were growing in number, but they couldn’t measure the increase with any precision.

More: Iraq, said the analysts, has become a “cause celebre” for jihadists, and the war is “cultivating supporters” of global terrorism.

Naturally, published reports seized on the cause celebre remark, but you’d think this would be obvious. Anywhere the United States invests that much blood and treasure would become a cause celebre for terrorists.

The intelligence estimate also explained why success in Iraq is critical: “Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed … fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.” Somehow, that assertion failed to make the headlines.

The document may have been unsurprising, but its overall gloomy tone was appropriate. Since Sept. 11, the challenge has only deepened.

During the summer, the eminent Middle Eastern scholar Bernard Lewis gave a lecture with a title posing our strategic challenge in stark terms: “Bring Them Freedom, Or They Destroy Us.”
Jihadists led by Osama bin Laden see the current struggle as the continuation of a 1,300-year conflict between Islam and Christianity.

In the most recent phase of the conflict, the world of the infidels was divided between the United States and Soviet Union. From the Muslim point of view, the United States didn’t defeat the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Rather, the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan by jihadists waging holy war.

Lewis says the jihadists were initially disheartened by the strong American response to Sept. 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Now they see Americans as deeply divided. With little understanding of how democracies work, they read debate as a sign of weakness.

“Thus,” says Lewis, “they prepare for the final victory, the final triumph and the final jihad.”
With an election looming in November, that’s an appropriate context for viewing the growing anti-war fervor among congressional Democrats.

If Democrats gain control of Congress, the risk is real that they would fatally undermine the Iraq effort by choking off the money — just as they did in the later years of the Vietnam War.

Congressional Democrats remain deeply divided on the war. Some favor immediate withdrawal, some favor timetables and some — a few — continue to back the administration.

But many have adopted a self-fulfilling policy of defeat. They have concluded that success in Iraq is impossible, therefore funding should be cut to ensure that success is impossible. The congressional Out of Iraq Caucus already has 73 members.

Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California, told The Hill newspaper that she “wouldn’t spend another dime” on Iraq.

New York Rep. Charles Rangel, a war opponent, would become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee if Democrats take control of the House. He’s a bit more subtle than Woolsey, but his point is the same: “You’ve got to be able to pay for the war, don’t you?” he told The Hill.
For all the mistakes, waste and lost opportunities, voters should understand that at this moment in history, giving Democrats control of Congress could be the same as voting for defeat in Iraq.