Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Al-Qaida threat

It's terrible to be so suspicious, but our government has certainly done enough posturing, misleading and outright lying to warrant suspicion. So I can't help wondering whether at least some of the hoopla over the National Intelligence Estimate, an unclassified summary of which was released today, has something to do with diverting attention from the mess in Iraq.

If the assessment is valid -- and I suspect it is to some extent, but remember that the U.S. "intelligence community" has a long record of getting things wrong -- that al-Qaida is better organized and a bigger danger than in recent years, it spotlights the extent to which invading Iraq was a huge strategic mistake. "Al-Qaida in Iraq" didn't exist before then, and the invasion diverted attention and resources from going after bin Laden and other al-Qaida leadership. It also made it virtually impossible to conduct a "war of ideas" by cultivating moderate Muslims as a counterpoint to the radical Islamists and jihadists.

The estimate is still pretty vague -- the threat is over the next several years; nothing imminent in the U.S. is identified -- but it will be spun as one more reason why we can't get out of Iraq "precipitously" because then "al-Qaida in Iraq" (about 5 percent of the insurgency) will have effective control of the country and be poised to attack Europe and the U.S. Sure. The likelier outcome is that the Iraqis would handle the foreign fighters rather handily (AQI is Sunni and the government and the most ruthless militias are Shia) although in ways that might not be for the squeamish.

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