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Iraq, the bigger picture

This column by Frank Devine in the Australian presents the thesis of intelligence analyst George Friedman in his new book America’s Secret War. As Devine tells it, Friedman views the war in Iraq as less about WMD (although the U.S. believed Saddam possessed them) than about disabusing Islam of the notion that the U.S. was weak of will and, relatedly, about causing Islamic states to lose their enthusiasm for global jihad. So far, the U.S. has been successful in this regard, according to Friedman, inasmuch as the jihad has stalled, with no regime falling to al Qaeda and no major problems with the Islamic street.
I agree that the war in Iraq was intended, in part, to send a message about our seriousness in the war against jihad and about the fate that awaits governments that harbor or even flirt with jihadists. The extent to which we have succeeded on these counts, given the problems we’ve encountered, is another matter. My sense is that our biggest Realpolitik victories have not been the result of attacking Iraq. Convincing Pakistan to aid our effort in Afghanistan and then ousting the Taliban, all without any uprising against the Pakistani government, represented a huge victory. Our worldwide crackdown against al Qaeda, that organization’s terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, the Saudis’ response, and the lack of any resulting uprising constituted another victory.
As for the Iraqi action, I think the Arab world is taking a wait-and-see attitude. Our willingness to overthrow Saddam sends a helpful message but the difficulties we’ve faced since overthrowing him may tend to negate any fear that we will try this sort of thing again in the near future.
Via Professor Bainbridge.

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