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Surprise: U.S. weakness strengthens al Qaeda

Remember when, during the Bush administration, the left and its MSM supporters insisted that U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan was causing Muslims to flock to al Qaeda? I wonder what the left and the MSM have to say now that al Qaeda is running rampant following President Obama’s withdrawal from the region?

There was never credible evidence to support the left’s self-serving claim that our interventions were boosting al Qaeda; indeed, all indications pointed against it. Al Qaeda had come to prominence during the Clinton years, during which U.S. policy in the Middle East was passive. America’s humiliating exit from Somalia provided al Qaeda with a huge selling point. Its ranks continued to swell during the next eight years, which culminated in 9/11. No meaningful U.S. military intervention occurred in the region during this period.

The successful overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq momentarily turned the tide in America’s favor throughout the Muslim world. Libya gave up its nuclear weapons program. Pakistan, under Musharraf, curtailed its cooperation with the Taliban and stepped up its cooperation with the U.S. Iran, if the CIA is to be believed, halted its nuclear program.

Al Qaeda at first made no advances. Bin Laden must have hoped that U.S. intervention in Afghanistan (and later Iraq) would spark Islamic fundamentalist revolutions throughout the Muslim world against governments that were not hostile to America. No such revolutions occurred.

In Iraq, however, our failure to put down the resistance did boost al Qaeda. But when the U.S. “surged” militarily, al Qaeda was trounced.

Under President Obama, the U.S. has veered back towards the passivity of the Clinton years. Our troops left Iraq altogether and they are being withdrawn from Afghanistan. Moreover, Obama declined to intervene militarily in Syria, even to the point of declining to follow through with what John Kerry called an “unbelievably small” air campaign against Assad’s stockpile of chemical weapons.

We have, then, almost a laboratory experiment in how U.S. military involvement affects the strength of al Qaeda. And the answer could not be more clear (or, I would argue, more predictable).

As the Washington Post reports, al Qaeda “has emerged as one of the region’s most powerful players.” In Iraq, it has taken control of Fallujah. It has become a major force in portions of Syria. Its influence now extends into Lebanon, according to the Post. And it is a significant player in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

So the lesson of the ages is not obsolete and history has not been repealed. Strength discourages one’s enemies; weakness encourages them; abject retreat enables them to run rampant.

One can argue, of course, that the cost of being strong and engaged in the Muslim world is too high to justify, even given the adverse effects of weakness. This, I assume, is the left’s fallback position, and it is not an exclusively leftist view.

But one cannot plausibly make the left’s absurd and intellectually dishonest claim that being strong and engaged somehow helps our enemies. The fact that the left insisted on this proposition demonstrates that it will argue anything. The fact that the argument was taken seriously demonstrates that America has lost both its nerve and its bearings.

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