Krauthammer's Thought Experiment

Thought experiment: Bring in a completely neutral observer — a Martian — and point out to him that the United States is involved in two hot wars against radical Islamic insurgents. One is in Afghanistan, a geographically marginal backwater with no resources, no industrial and no technological infrastructure. The other is in Iraq, one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure which, though suffering decay in the later Saddam years, could easily be revived if it falls into the right (i.e. wrong) hands. Add to that the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait ,and the Gulf states. Then ask your Martian: Which is the more important battle? He would not even understand why you are asking the question.

Al Qaeda has provided the answer many times. Osama bin Laden, the one whose presence in Afghanistan presumably makes it the central front in the war on terror, has been explicit that “the most serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War that is raging in Iraq.” Al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has declared that Iraq “is now the place for the greatest battle of Islam in this era.”

Alleged intellectual Krauthammer apparently thinks we can take Osama bin Laden's words at face value. Surely, the man with a multi-million dollar bounty on his head has no vested interest in keeping the full force of American military strength away from his cave! Or maybe, just maybe al Qaeda has learned our grand defense strategy: "fight them over there so we don't have to fight them here."

Larison puts it this way:

If you were to then tell the “Martian” the rest of the information that would show the true significance of the two theaters, even the “Martian” would have to agree that Krauthammer doesn’t understand the first thing about geopolitics or strategy. What rather strategically significant country borders Afghanistan and could be affected rather signficantly by a resurgent Taliban in the borderlands? That would be Pakistan. That would be the Pakistan that has a nuclear arsenal, and which has a highly unstable authoritarian government and the Inter-Services Intelligence branch that is heavily compromised by sympathies with and ties to jihadis forged over decades of sponsoring jihadis in Afghanistan and India. Western Pakistan also now serves as the base for the Taliban and, to the extent that it is centered anywhere, the center of the leadership of Al Qaeda. Of course top Al Qaeda figures would talk up Iraq as the main front–all other things being equal, if you could convince your stupid enemy to fight you far away from where you are and make him think that he was dealing you a death blow in the process, you would do this, especially when the effect of this is to reduce his attention on the far more pivotal battle going on in the supposed backwater.
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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on April 2, 2007 6:28 PM.

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