The war in context |

The war in context

Editor’s note: This is the last of a two-part series about the genesis of al Qaida, the Iraq War and the president’s strategy to win the war on terror.”A person cannot understand an event simply by attempting to reconstruct a chain of causality leading up to it. Instead, one must immerse oneself in the context, to fully understand the moment in which the event took place. Only if you get the context right,can you understand what came before, what is occurring now, and may come later” – Author unknown.With the Iraq War approaching its third anniversary, I thought it timely to examine both its rationale and its relationship to the war on terror within proper context.n U.N. weapons inspectors and the 9/11 Commission believed Saddam was within 18 months of developing a nuclear weapon. n Gen. M. Hamdani, the Republican Guard commander protecting Baghdad, called Saddam’s intentional ambiguity about Iraq’s WMDs “deterrence by doubt.” n The U.N. did not fulfill its responsibilities after the Gulf War-it watched Saddam flout 14 resolutions and then turn a blind eye as he bribed Russia, France and China to keep those resolutions toothless, making it impossible for the Security Council to lay down a real ultimatum that might have avoided the war.Nevertheless, the debate about the war’s justification remains conflicted because many conflate three separate issues: n The strength of Bush’s case to go to war.n His refusal to delay the invasion to allow for further inspections.n The administration’s failure to anticipate the resulting chaos in Iraq. A strong argument can be made that vis-a-vis 17 direct terror attacks upon U.S. installations and citizens around the world culminating in the events of 9/11, co-joined with the corruption at the U.N. and Saddam’s duplicity. Had there been even a 1 percent chance Saddam could acquire a nuclear weapon, George Bush would have been derelict not to remove him from power.Further, due to the fraud and fecklessness at the U.N., postponing the war would have accomplished nothing. However, the administration should be held accountable for its failure to eliminate the Fedayeen in the war’s early stages and thus destroy the insurgency before it took hold. But the above still doesn’t address the origin of Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. To fully understand that decision, we must first understand al Qaida’s grand strategy. Osama bin Laden believes the dysfunction within the Islamic world originates from a long line of corrupt Islamic leaders collaborating with foreign infidels. In his mind, the United States is simply the latest and most nefarious.Al Qaida’s attacks on the Khobar Towers, the African embassies, the USS Cole and the events of 9/11 were all designed to elicit an overpowering American military response, which bin Laden hoped would galvanize the Muslim world under a militant fundamentalist Wahabist ideology leading the way to an Islamic Caliphate stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to Malaysia.Bin Laden understood the Islamic world viewed the United States as politically irresolute. While they witnessed first-hand our frightening military power during Desert Storm, they also watched us leave Saddam in power in 1991, our withdrawals from Vietnam, Beirut and Somalia, and our tepid responses to the Khobar Towers, the African embassies and the USS Cole.Meanwhile, after 9/11 Americans demanded that the president “do something,” resulting in the invasion of Afghanistan and removal of the Taliban. While a strong tactical move, that action remained in part, palliative, leaving open the question of the administration’s grand strategy to defeat al Qaida. Conversely, because the heart and soul of al Qaida lay in Saudi Arabia, the administration understood we had no hope of defeating al Qaida without vital assistance from Islamic nations, especially the Saudis. But the Saudi royal family had serious problems with the Wahabists themselves and were reluctant to overtly side with the Christian infidels. Besides, predicated on our past actions, the Saudis didn’t believe we were serious about this war. Dr. George Friedman, who I referenced in part one of this series, opined that Bush’s strategy wasn’t to preserve our relationship with the Saudis; it was to redefine it without displacing the House of Saud. To win the war on terror, we first had to change the behavior of its royal family. But how does a Christian nation gain the cooperation of an Islamic government that fears al Qaida more than it does the U.S.?The answer was a military victory of significant proportions to demonstrate to the Saudis and the entire Islamic world that America meant business. However, an invasion of Saudi Arabia wasn’t the solution because that would have unleashed further support for al Qaida. We needed a universal enemy. Bush wanted the Saudis to pressure al Qaida. By invading Iraq, he not only removed the region’s wild card, but he delivered the message that non-cooperation against al Qaida could result in a fate similar to Saddam’s, a pretty good bargaining chip in the world of Islamic politics.Because Iraq borders six Islamic nations, our forces there combined with those in Afghanistan give us the strategic leverage to influence the geopolitical equation from the Himalayas to the Mediterranean and from the Caucuses to the Red Sea.Hundreds of political and religious cross currents eddy beneath the surface in Iraq, making attempts to channel them three measures forward, two back. But asymmetrical warfare requires strategies that are nuanced, circuitous and most importantly, offensive. The key to victory lies in tapping into the Islamic world’s self-interests, which in an age of globalization, trump ideology, making the administration task one of cajoling, coaxing and pressuring Islamic states to join us. The turmoil in Iraq is distressing. But aside from Iran, Syria and some tribal areas of Pakistan, most Islamic governments are slowly engaging on our side in this fight. But lest we forget, they’re also watching to see if we’re really in it for the long haul. Butch Mazzuca, a local Realtor and ski instructor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at

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