We'll grant Saddam his box.
Afghanistan: a protracted war with not only tribal leaders and Taliban remnants, but al Qaeda as well. Bin laden knew America would come to Afghanistan. At best we'd lob a few rockets at camps. At worst we would end up in a protracted quagmire in the mountains, valleys, and forests just like the Soviets did. And al Qaeda thought they could eventually rout us, just as they did the Soviets. They would have fought us hard there. Four years later, we would probably still be in Afghanistan, in greater numbers, with a larger loss of life, and little in the way of democracy in place for the Afghan people.
Well, okay then. What else?
We would still have captured the likes of Kahlid Sheik Mohammed. We would still have Gitmo. We would still have routed terror cells inside the US. Would still have long lines at airports for security checks. Would still have tried drying up funding for terrorism. Would still have worked with intelligence agencies around the world to identify and neutralize terrorists. We would still have spent billions on homeland security.
Well, okay then. What else?
The muslim world's opinion of the West, especially America, was already bad...it had cheered the 9/11 attack on America. But with no Iraq it wouldn't have been made worse. The muslim world paid little attention to the extremists...except for cheering when they attacked the West.
Well, okay then. Not so bad. What else?
Attacks on the West. Would there have been more? fewer? More on America? fewer on Europe? the Same? Those questions I have no real answer for. I suspect with or without Iraq it would have been much the same. With al Qaeda middle-management killed or captured, the disparate groups loosely affiliated would have gone their own way anyway. What they could get away with they would have attempted.
Except for one item.
Zarqawi's plotted ricin attacks on Europe were thankfully thwarted. Would he have tried again? Does anyone think this cruel, persistant, terrorist would simply have faded away? Would he have been killed or captured before or after some horrific attack on the West was successful or would he still be plotting and executing more?
And, whatever attacks would occur in the West, the arab world would cheer.
And attacks and threat of attack would continue for year after year after year for decades with always the possibility of escalation to horrific levels.
If we hadn't invaded Iraq.
But we invaded Iraq.
Yes, attacks have still occurred in the West and will continue to be a problem for some time to come.
the Arab world, though many still cheer when the West is attacked, is not as united in its cheering as it once was. Zarqawi is a little too occupied blowing up muslims in Iraq to attack the West. And to show how potent a 'believer' he is, he puts out videos of his carnage and slaughter. The muslim world has noticed.
To gather momentum for the movement Zarqawi needs the muslim world to validate him, to cheer him on, to give him recruits. But the muslim world is having second thoughts about that--especially when Zarqawi pulled his worst PR stunt of all: blowing up a wedding party of muslims in Jordan.
Now combine the disgust many muslims have of the slaughter inflicted by Zarqawi and al Qaeda, with the sight of the struggle of the Iraqi people to embrace their freedom as well as their courageous determination to have self-government, and you have a muslim world on the verge of tossing out their extremists. If rejecting these extremists is a step on the way to their own freedom, this choice is becoming obvious to them.
And the very recognition of the horror of the slaughter speaks against the same horror inflicted on the infidel. There has been no tipping point yet. But it will come.
The already low opinion the Arab world had of America went even lower when we invaded Iraq. It has since recovered but no matter how some of us protest, the idea is not for them to love America but for them to reject the extremists.
As for Afghanistan, al Qaeda tried for a while but Iraq, the heart of the Arab world, was too important for them to ignore...even though they don't have the mountains, valleys, and trees to hide in. Afghanistan is already a better place because of Iraq. And no quagmire. I doubt that the slaughter of innocent Afghanis would have had the same effect on the Arab world as the slaughter of Arab muslims.
As I said, there will still be attacks on the West for some time to come. But without the support of the Arab world and muslims in general they will not last forever and an end to the slaughter inflicted by Islamic terrorism can at least be imagined.
Because of Iraq.
But don't just take my word for it. Here is part of a Washington Post editorial:
But Iraq has given Arabs across the Middle East a gruesomely vivid demonstration of al Qaeda's real vision for the region: bombings in mosques; the beheading of fellow Muslims; and Taliban-style dictatorship in areas under its control. Now Arabs watch the footage of a wedding turned into a massacre, with no conceivable U.S. targets in sight. No wonder al Qaeda ideologue Ayman Zawahiri is allegedly concerned enough about the movement's image to have dispatched a chiding letter to the Iraqi branch. And no wonder Arabs who demonstrate in the streets of their cities these days most often do so in favor of democracy -- and against the criminals of al Qaeda.Some people are seeing the rejection of the terrorists yet are not quite ready to make the connection to Iraq. The Washington Post, to its credit, does.