During a semi-bi-annual clean-up of my study, I came across an undated scrap of Washington Post on which Brookings' Robert Kagan briefly but thoroughly excoriated George Will for advocating US withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. It apparently dates back back two years to columns Will wrote in September 2009.
Nothing could be more "disastrous" than such a "double surrender," Kagan wrote. His reason:
The consequences of such a retreat would be to shift the balance of influence in the region decidedly away from pro-US forces and in the direction of the most radical forces in Tehran, as well as toward al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban, to name just the most prominent beneficiaries.
That's bitterly funny. Two years later, the balance of influence in the region is ever more clearly with these same "radical forces" that our very presence, Kagan wrote, was supposed to counter.
Take Iran. Now revealed (but not by the US Government but by private attorneys in court) as a party to the 9/11 attacks, Iran continues to operate and expand inside Iraq. Iranian pincers inside Iraq have been clear as day for years, although they have been discounted for as long by pro-war surgi-cons, no doubt because such "details" undermine the narrative of "victory" in Iraq, which is cracked basis of Washington-wide Petraeus Worship. Meanwhile, Iran's nuclear program drives on to a state of operational readiness.
In Libya, Al-Qaeda forces, thanks to NATO and the US, now, incredibly, have the upper hand after an insurrection against Qaddafi, which Kagan actively supported.
In Egypt and elsewhere, the Muslim Brotherhood, dedicated to an Islamic caliphate, has surfed the wave of coups fulsomely packaged as "Arab Spring" to heretofore unprecedented heights of influence. No worries, says Kagan. "We in the US are going to have a varied attitude toward `Islamism,' " he said on ABC's This Week on noting the large influence of the MB on post-Mubarak Egypt. "There is `bin Ladinism' and then there are the `Islamist' parties that may be compatible with democracy." Such talk is see-no-Islam hairsplitting that ignores the exact same call to jihad both bin Laden and the Muslim Brotherhood echo and answer for the shared purpose of extending Islamic law, by "democracy" or not.
In Afghanistan, the US remains engaged in a useless and wasteful effort to win Afghan "hearts and minds" even as we now simultaneously engage in what Hillary Clinton recently described as "outreach" to the Taliban -- solid evidence of Taliban staying power. Meanwhile, the American state of full-blown dhimmitude in Afghanistan is such that troops have been ordered to treat the Koran with unique reverence, and our top command, civilian and military, have condemned and critiqued freedom of expression in the US where citizens (so far) are not under these same military regulations.
All in all, it looks as if the same catastrophic sequence of events could well have unfolded with or without our troops (and taxpayers) paying the price. What's quite strange to behold is that the Bush-Obama pro-war advocates approve of a large chunk of them anyway. The much larger point is that American efforts to "democratize" Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the "umma" does nothing to spread or -- far, far more important -- preserve Western-style liberties.