Jewish World Review March 31, 2003 / 27 Adar II, 5763
Iraq is a steppingstone, not a final stop
Many -- including me -- have called what has begun in Iraq a "war." But this
is inaccurate, and the maldescription may cause some to fail to understand
what's going on, what's at stake and what's likely to happen next.
The United States is at war. We weren't aware
we were at war until Sept. 11, 2001, but the
war began well before then. Muslim extremists
attacked Army Rangers in Somalia in 1993; the
Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia in
1996; our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in
1998; the USS Cole in the port of Aden in
2000 -- but we didn't connect the dots. It took a horrible slaughter on our
own soil before we paid attention to the gathering danger.
We are at war with Islamic extremists who hate us because we are rich and
powerful, because we don't enslave women or murder Jews. We are guilty of
no provocation save our mere existence. So this is not a conflict which can be
resolved by appeasement or negotiation. We must destroy them, or they will
These Islamic extremists are found both in terror groups -- principally, but by
no means exclusively al-Qaida -- and in terror-supporting states. There is a
symbiotic relationship between the two.
Al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, etc. can exist without state support. But
they cannot be very dangerous without it. By themselves, the terror groups
can kill dozens, perhaps hundreds. But with the help of Iran, Iraq, Syria,
Libya, they could kill tens of thousands.
To win World War II, we had to beat both Germany and Japan, and we had
to fight both simultaneously. To win the war on terror, we have to fight both
the terror groups and the terror-supporting states, and we have to fight them
both at once.
Major wars are a series of campaigns, each of them conducted to gain a vital
steppingstone on the road to victory, but none of them sufficient by
themselves to achieve victory. Afghanistan was a campaign in the war on
terror, the ongoing pursuit of al-Qaida another, Iraq a third. More will follow.
Some campaigns are more important than others. To use a WWII analogy,
the Afghan campaign was Guadalcanal or New Guinea -- America fighting
back, blunting the enemy's offensive, giving us the momentum. Iraq, I think,
will be comparable to the liberation of the Philippines -- a body blow to the
enemy, one that virtually guarantees his ultimate defeat.
The disarmament of Iraq and the liberation of its people are terrific ends in
themselves. But Iraq is more properly viewed as just another steppingstone.
Iraq is important for three reasons:
First, by removing Saddam, we remove not merely a serious threat to Iraq's
neighbors and the world's oil supply, the terror network loses a major source
of sanctuary, funding and weapons. I suspect ties between al-Qaida and Iraqi
intelligence are much greater than most of us realize, but there is no point in
arguing about it. We'll find out soon enough.
Second, if a reasonably democratic, reasonably pro-Western government can
take hold in Iraq, it would be a major step toward draining the poisonous
swamps in which terrorist "fish" swim. The more autocratic a Muslim state is,
the more likely it is to breed and harbor Muslim extremists. There are no
democracies in the Arab world. But if democracy takes hold in Iraq, other
nations will have to follow. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar already are
making liberalizing noises.
Third, if there is a major U.S. military presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan,
Iran will be surrounded. Iran is the first revolutionary terror state, responsible
for the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, and -- intelligence
officials think -- for the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996.
And Iran may be the most dangerous of the terror states. It has more than
double the population of Iraq, nearly as much oil and is only a year or so
away from possessing nuclear weapons.
We may not need to use military force to change Iran. The presence of
democracies to the east and west may inspire the Iranian people to do the job
themselves. But we will not be safe until there is regime change in Iran as well
as in Iraq.
The liberation of Iraq will be neither the beginning nor the end of the war on
terror. But it could mark the beginning of the end.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2002, Jack Kelly