Swing Jihadists - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Swing Jihadists

In his column today, Charles Krauthammer makes an important point on whether or not the war in Iraq increased terrorism. He writes:

It is an issue of time frame. The bombing of the Japanese home islands may have increased short-term recruiting for the kamikazes. But success in the Pacific war put a definitive end to the whole affair.

This is a key distinction that is lost on the Left. Fighting an enemy may get them increasingly angry, but once you defeat them it's immaterial. It should go without saying that 9/11 took place before the Iraq War, so al Qaeda obviously had no shortage of grievances with the U.S. One may counter that the first Gulf War, which led to the stationing of soldiers in Saudi Arabia, is what really set off al Qaeda. But even if the U.S. let Saddam annex Kuwait in 1990 to avoid angering terrorists, that doesn't change the fact that al Qaeda was founded in 1988, or that the origins of modern Islamic fundamentalism can be traced back to Egypt in the 1920s.

One may still respond that yes, there may have been Islamic fundamentalists prior to the Iraq War, but that doesn't change the fact that the Iraq War has made it easier for terrorists to recruit new ones. Talking about jihad against the U.S. from a cave is easy, but those threats are meaningless if there aren't any foot soldiers to carry out attacks. For lack of a better term, let's call these people "swing jihadists," i.e., people who have the potential to become terrorists, but who under different circumstances may prefer sitting home, drinking tea, and watching Al Jazeera.

For the sake of discussion, let's say that the Iraq War did allow terrorist groups to win over more "swing jihadists," thus increasing the quantity of terrorists and/or the fervor with which they carry out attacks. What would have happened if we never invaded? What if, instead of invading Iraq, we "finished the job in Afghanistan" first, as many of the Iraq War's critics have argued. What's to say that Afghanistan wouldn't have turned into a "cause celebre" for terrorists? The jihadists waged a decade-long war to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan and that's where al Qaeda had its origins. If terrorists have been able to use the Iraq War as a tool to recruit "swing jihadists," why wouldn't they have been able to use Afghanistan as such, given that we took down an Islamic regime and replaced it with an American-supported government? 

It would be difficult to argue that we could have fought terrorism at all had we not gone into Afghanistan, which brings me back to the initial point of this post. Anything we did after 9/11 to respond to terrorism would anger a portion of the Muslim world and potentially help terrorist recruitment. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be fighting, it means we should be staying on the offensive until we achieve victory.

And let us not forget that while a hardened terrorist with a suicidal outlook may be willing to fight us until the bitter end, the average "swing jihadist" wants to know that they are fighting for a winning cause. There's no better way to send them the message that the terrorist team is winning than than for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq.

To quote bin Laden in 1998:

So, when they left Afghanistan, they went to Somalia and prepared themselves carefully for a long war. They had thought that the Americans were like the Russians, so they trained and prepared. They were stunned when they discovered how low was the morale of the American soldier. America had entered with 30,000 soldiers in addition to thousands of soldiers from different countries in the world. … As I said, our boys were shocked by the low morale of the American soldier and they realized that the American soldier was just a paper tiger. He was unable to endure the strikes that were dealt to his army, so he fled, and America had to stop all its bragging and all that noise it was making in the press after the Gulf War…

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