04 April 2004


Every time I think I'm being too much of a lefty naysayer, I stumble across new explanations of why Iraq is an even bigger policy nightmare than I had imagined.
Were the United States to withdraw, it would send a clear message that Washington is vulnerable to pain --- even at low levels. This would undermine the ultimate goal of demonstrating undeniably that the Islamist militants --- al Qaeda or not --- have no chance of defeating the United States, and therefore no chance of achieving their broader goal of a renewed Islamic caliphate stretching across the Muslim world.

We are now at a point where an object --- immovable by strategic design --- is being faced by a thus-far unyielding force. Washington cannot pull back, or it will suffer defeat on a much broader scale than just Iraq. The jihadists cannot end their offensive, or they will demonstrate their impotence and lose any chance of stirring the Muslim street (whatever that might be) into action. With U.S. elections nearing, the jihadists will intensify both the scale and the scope of attacks. In Iraq, with the handover of power nearing, the secular militants will increase their attacks. With the ongoing rotation of troops, U.S. forces will make a show of their power to deter future attacks or resistance. The combination will be volatile.

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