War in Iraq vs. War on Terrorism


The Washington Post asks the experts whether the War in Iraq has helped or hurt the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorists of the "global reach" variety.

Stunningly, Bush fans say no and critics say yes. Examples include this:

Flynt Leverett, a former CIA analyst and Middle East specialist who left Bush's National Security Council staff a year ago, also agrees.

"Clarke's critique of administration decision-making and how it did not balance the imperative of finishing the job against al Qaeda versus what they wanted to do in Iraq is absolutely on the money," Leverett said.

He said that Arabic-speaking Special Forces officers and CIA officers who were doing a good job tracking Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri and other al Qaeda leaders were pulled out of Afghanistan in March 2002 to begin preparing for the war against Iraq. "We took the people out who could have caught them," he said. "But even if we get bin Laden or Zawahiri now, it is two years too late. Al Qaeda is a very different organization now. It has had time to adapt. The administration should have finished this job."

And from the other side:

Eliot Cohen, director of strategic studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and an advocate of attacking Iraq, argues that Clarke's analysis wrongly assumes the battle against terrorism paralyzes the government when it comes to waging other wars. He said that if one assumes that the fight against terrorism is a multi-year effort that could stretch decades, then "there is nothing the U.S. government can do for 30 years but fight al Qaeda." He noted that the bulk of the fighting in Iraq was carried out by military units, such as the 101st Airborne, that were not involved in Afghanistan.

As the Post presents it (coff coff), the tilt is clearly to the side that holds the Iraq invasion was a distraction, further noting, "Cohen agreed, however, that a war the scale of the Iraq invasion could divert the attention of senior officials from other issues, such as fighting terrorism."

Read it all here.