The Washington Post reports on a new National Intelligence Estimate (which apparently comes as a result of yet another leak of classified material from the intelligence commmunity), that offers a grim assessment of the state of the war on terror today and the effect of the war in Iraq on the broader war on terror:
The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.
A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April cites the “centrality” of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document.
First, isn’t it interesting how the president’s critics take as Gospel Truth any assessments from the intelligence community that they believe reflect negatively on the Bush administration, given that this is the same intel community that told us before the invasion that there were WMD in Iraq?
But this NIE assessment is really not a surprise at all. Of course confronting the terrorists is going to stir them up and make them fight back harder. The fight against Japan was harder after we responded to the Pearl Harbor attack too. Like trying to get rid of a hornets’ nest is likely to result in some stings, it’s a given that confronting the jihadists is going to result in some blowback.
The question isn’t whether there is an increase in the terrorist threat in the short term; we always expected that. What matters is whether we can change the dynamic in the Middle East to lessen the terrorist threat long term. The jury is still out on that question. But we know the old way of responding to individual terrorist attacks as crimes, but never confronting the broader threat head-on, was a failure; terrorist threats occurred regularly throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
So President Bush decided to confront that broader threat, to try to defeat Islamo-fascism once and for all. As the administration has argued repeatedly and consistently, this is a war that will take many years. The expected uptick in terrorist activity in response to our fighting back is not necessarily a foreshadowing of the ultimate outcome of the war.
A good analysis from Ed Morrissey
And another from Rick Moran:
I am not disputing the conclusions in this leaked report. I am resisting the implications that some would draw from it; that if only we had not confronted the jihadists or worked to solve the root causes of terrorism, none of this would be true today.
I totally reject that notion. In fact, I believe it delusional thinking to say that we’d be any safer if we hadn’t invaded Iraq or if we had just lobbed a few cruise missiles at Osama Bin Laden following 9/11, or even if we had put enormous pressure on Israel to come to an agreement with the Palestinians. All of this ignores the one overarching truth about the nature of our enemies (and their tens of millions of supporters around the world); what they seek, we cannot give them.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, the Democrats have decided to use the report as another opportunity to play politics:
Dems use intel report to attack GOP
“Democrats on Sunday seized on an intelligence assessment that said the Iraq war has increased the terrorist threat, saying it was further evidence that Americans should choose new leadership in the November elections.”