The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.
Needless to say, the Democrats are all over it, saying that this justifies withdrawing from Iraq as soon as possible.
The blogosphere is all over it too. Being committed to the idea that examining different viewpoints is essential to coming to any intelligent conclusion, I offer you some of the varying viewpoints.
Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory adamantly opposes the war in Iraq, and sees the report as providing the ultimate justification for that position. He didn't actually call for immediate withdrawal, mind you, at least not in this post.
So, a recap of the Iraq war: there were never any WMDs. The proliferation of government death squads and militias in Iraq means that, compared to the Saddam era, human rights have worsened and torture has increased to record levels. Iranian influence has massively increased, as a result of a Shiite fundamentalist government loyal to Tehran replacing the former anti-Iranian regime. We've squandered hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives. And we have -- according to the consensus of our own intelligence community -- directly worsened the terrorist problem with our invasion, and continue to worsen it with our ongoing occupation.
Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters approaches the issue from the other side and dismisses even the basic premise of the report.
It's a fascinating article, and one CQ readers should read in its entirety. It makes the classic logical fallacy of confusing correlation with causation, and the basic premise can easily be dismissed with a reminder of some basic facts.
First and foremost, Islamist radicalism didn't just start expanding in 2003. The most massive expansion of Islamist radicalism came after the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, when the Islamists defeated one of the world's superpowers. Shortly afterwards, the staging of American forces in Saudi Arabia to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait created the most significant impulse for the expansion of organized Islamist radicalism and led directly to the formation of al-Qaeda. It put the US in Wahhabi jihadist crosshairs for the first time.
Finally, Bobby at Stubborn Facts approaches the whole issue from a military background and provides a rather sophisticated analysis that is not as overtly partisan. His basic argument is that while the war in Iraq may have started as a war of choice, it has now become a war of necessity, and an immediate withdrawal could have disastrous consequences.
On the other hand, it does not logically follow that our security interests would be any better served by handing over control of the country to those radical Islamists who would likely come to power in a premature American withdrawal. In fact, in the event of a premature withdrawal (and by premature, I mean any withdrawal before the legitimate Iraqi government has developed the functional capability to provide for its own security, repond to the needs of its citizens, and provide for a stable Iraqi society that does not support international terrorism), it's far more likely that the Islamist radicals would be far better able to exploit this defeat-- by celebrating their victory and establishing bases of operation-- that would make the radicals more lethal, in terms of quantity and quality, in their attacks against the West.
I strongly recommend having a look at all three, especially Bobby's. At least read the ones you disagree with...
[Update - Sept. 26] John in the comments links us to Robert Kagan's column in the Washington Post. Anonymous Liberal has seen it too, and he sure didn't like it. He takes it on blow by blow in his post today. Meanwhile, Captain Ed is calling for the release of a redacted version. He's got his own set of quotes from the NIE, courtesy of Spook86, which suggest that there's a lot more nuance to it than the NYTimes' initial report would lead us to believe. He has a point. Selective quotes from unnamed sources are not exactly the bedrock of comprehensive, balanced reporting.
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