Monday, February 27, 2006

Saddam, Al Qaeda? Not much...

My interpretation (which you might agree with) is that Saddam had more of an interest in Al Qaeda than Al Qaeda had in Saddam. Certainly Al Qaeda wanted Saddam dead, just like the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Iran, and all other countries in the world. He's effectively the Anarchists' poster boy, whether people know it or not. The existence of human-made law is anethma to these guys.
However, Al Qaeda did manage to drag the spotlight away from Iraq on regular occasion, so Saddam certainly had an interest in keeping them running.
I have no doubt that Al Qaeda would never have informed Saddam of their plans for the 9/11 attacks. From what has been found thus far, they barely even told themselves of their own plan. It's not even clear whether all the hijackers knew they were on such a mission that day.
From what I've read, there were some discussions between Iraqi operatives and Al Qaeda back when Osama was being kicked out of the middle east (in particular I think, Yemen). If he went to Saudi Arabia, he'd be either killed or extradicted, so they let him go to Afghanistan. Apparently one of the options under consideration was Iraq. In retrospect, it'd probably have been better for us if he had gone to Iraq, because certainly Saddam's paranoid patience would've worn thin, and he might've killed him.
But whatever....
To Saddam, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" makes sense. To Osama, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend if he serves Allah in every waking moment".
So no, they were by no means friends.

Either way, the post 9/11 policy has been to brook no state sponsors of international terrorism, period. The message to such states was to be that it's not a question of 'if' we'll do something about it, but a question of 'when'. I make the 'international' disclaimer, because sometimes in civil wars, it can be very difficult to figure out who is who, but when a country supports terrorists acting outside it's borders, that's something we really cannot accept, even if it doesn't target us specifically.
What we do about it (trade war, sanctions, military actions) and when we do it are the difficult questions.

One thing the US has been throughout its history, is pretty much the most ruthless actor in any conflict. I think this is largely because americans see war as a job to do, not an honorable pursuit in and of itself. We've found failure where we failed to pursue overwhelming victory. In the civil war, we abandoned occupation and reconstruction of the south, leaving blacks to wallow under oppression for another hundred years. It would have been extremely taxing to continue reconstruction policies in the south, and there was little care or support in the north, since the blacks were technically free in some respects and the union was preserved. In Korea, we retreated to the south, leaving the communists to pilliage the north for what's going on now 50 years. How much would it have cost us to retake North Korea? That is impossible to know now. How much it cost to not retake it is unfortunately very clear, a nuclear armed rogue nation that exports its technology to any bidder. In vietnam we followed nearly the same policy.
This generalization is certainly undeserved in many ways, as each and every conflict has unique circumstances surrounding it, not to mention the 800 pound gorrilla in the room, the USSR. And I don't know for sure whether taking the conflicts more seriously in terms of understanding it as a fight for survival rather than a fight for ideology would have fixed these situations, but where we did fight like it was for our survival, we succeeded.

The fucked up thing is, that there was serious badness going on in Iraq, and if america really committed itself to fixing the situation, it would probably be much further along towards being fixed right now. Instead we're pointing fingers and trying to determine how to take political advantage of the situation.
Perhaps we do need a constitutional amendment to put war declarations back in the hands of congress. Perhaps if we'd actually declared war on Iraq (which they could have sustained in the house and senate, looking it up - 77 to 23 in the senate, 296-133 in the house), we'd have the resolve to see it through with much less weakness and bloodshed. Perhaps we could have said then: 'What are you talking about WMDs? We're in there to fix the damn problem, not just deal with a symptom or two.'
I'd liken it very slightly to breaking boards with your hands. The moment you are timid, cautious, or less than totally committed, the board wont break, and it's going to hurt like hell. If you punch right through it, it's like it was barely there.

Certainly there are valid arguments that we shouldn't commit to such a war in the first place, being that Iraq was debatably not a direct threat to the US. I can in some ways agree with that, in the sense that if we cannot mobilize the country to support a full scale war, we do run the risk of putting vietnam-like messages out to the world suggesting that we'll withdraw if they just can punch us in the nose once. I'd have voted for the war though, and if we had declared a state of war, I would have expected the naysayers to hold their tongues until it was well done and over.

It just really really sucks that we're so fractured over this... and this isn't a conservative vs. liberal thing, it's an isolationist versus interactive thing. It's the same debate we've had since the founding of the country.

I guess we can hope that the current low-grade civil war in Iraq is showing everybody involved that they're all losing.

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