Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Welcome to the Tigris Roach Motel-...where the jihadis check in, but they don't check out. This was an interesting National Post piece looking at the various hard-cases heading to Iraq to do battle with the Great Satan.
"Far from a new Vietnam, we appear to be heading for a new Afghanistan, Somalia or Chechnya as the next battleground between Islam and the infidels," an official in Washington told the Daily Telegraph.
Nice rhetorical shotgun. Do you want the Soviets fighting the mujahadeen, the US fighting Somali warlords or the Russians fighting local Islamic rebels? None of them are great fits.
Rather than confronting the Americans directly, Muslim nations, in step with al-Qaeda and the Iraqi resistance, are waging the "war of the flea," in which guerrillas use their agility and local knowledge to damage a bigger, stronger enemy. The model for the guerrilla campaign is clearly Afghanistan, where Islamic fighters backed by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (not to mention the U.S. and Britain) conducted a decade-long war of attrition against the Soviets, which lost 15,000 soldiers before retreating.
Three problems with the Afghanistan model. The first is that the US isn't the USSR; we're there with the approval of the majority of the population. Even if we're a bit slow in delivering the goodies, the jihadis would be even slower, and the Iraqi street knows that. We're not there to expand our empire, as much as some on the left find that hard to believe, but to (within the limited resources of a finite government) help the Iraqi people as best we can. The second problem with making the US into the Soviets is that the jihadis don't have the US backing them this time. There may be some men and materiel flowing from other Islamic areas, but not as much as the Afghan rebels got. A third problem is that the US will fight a lot smarter than the Soviets did. With technology, human intel (as long as the people are against the jihadis, there will be leaks of their movements) and smarter fighting methods, we'll be a tougher foe than the Red Army.
There have been continuing reports that Muslims from the Middle East have been streaming into Iraq to fight what they see as a jihad against the West. More than 70 foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan were killed last month when U.S. troops raided a terror training camp west of Baghdad. In June, American troops captured 15 Saudis and seized a massive haul of weapons and ammunition.
Better in Baghdad then West Palm Beach. If they want to fight us in Iraq, that takes the battle (and the collateral damage) out of our backyard. Sorta like playing with the house money. This is where the Roach Motel comes in. If we can sucker al Qaeda into doing battle in Iraq, they will tick off the Arab street if all they are doing is trying to terrorize Iraq back to the Stone Age. You can make a case for secular-leaning Muslims for kicking Israel out of Palestine, but it's a harder case to justify get rid of a fledgling democracy (if we fast forward a year) to replace it with the second coming of the Taliban. If we win the Iraqi Intifada, we'll give al Qaeda a black eye and take out quite a few of its resources.
A similar scenario played out in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. Tens of thousands of young Muslim radicals from around the world converged to train and fight. Later, bin Laden united them under his al-Qaeda organization and dispatched them around the world to commit such acts as the Sept. 11 attacks.
Afghanistan showed the jihadis that they could beat the infidel. Sometimes you get the infidel, and sometimes, the infidel gets you. This time, it's going to be the latter, for the US can't afford to lose this one.

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