Portions Of NIE Report Declassified & Released genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation
In what many consider an effort at damage control, the Bush administration has quickly assembled and released declassified excerpts of the National Intelligence Estimate that has garnered the lion's share of media attention this week. While the released portions offer a broader perspective on the already leaked information, they fail to refute the general conclusion that the war in Iraq has in fact created more terrorists and accelerated extremist affiliations. The New York Times reports on the newly released data as well as provides a link to the full document that is less than four pages in length.
From The New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — The war in Iraq has become a “cause célèbre" for Islamic militants, “breeding a deep resentment" of the United States in the Muslim world, according to declassified excerpts from a major intelligence report that were released late this afternoon.
“The Iraqi jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere," the excerpts said.
The excerpts from the intelligence report pointed to a spread of terrorist activity globally for at least the next five years and said terrorists were adapting to the tactics used against them. “If this trend continues, threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide," they said.
The report cites four factors fueling the spread of Islamic militancy: entrenched grievances and a sense of powerlessness; the Iraq “jihad"; the slow pace of reform in Muslim nations; and “pervasive anti-U.S. sentiment among most Muslims."
I think it is critical to point out that despite the fact that the war in Iraq has led to an expansion of extremist affiliations, the problem will not be alleviated by simply withdrawing from Iraq. One can make the argument that a withdrawal, whereby the Iraqi's are given the opportunity to construct the government they prefer, might quell some of the animosity amongst those inclined to moderate and more secular views. However, the damage done, coupled with those predisposed to resenting Western Civilization, will leave the world with more extremists which will require the Western world to remain in a state of heightened security.
As we approach the midterm election, it is safe to conclude that little focus will be given to these realities and their eventual resolution...other than the GOP arguing that we cannot cut and run and the Democrats contending that the existing course of action is an unmitigated failure. I understand the partisan nature of politics but I can't help but look for reasonable alternatives that might succeed. Before delving into that discussion, I think there are some excerpts from the released document that are needed to frame the available solutions.
From The NIE Report:
The jihadists' greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution - an ultra-conservative interpretation of Shari’a-based governance spanning the Muslim world - is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists' propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.
Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.
Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.
What is evident from the above analysis is that there are methods available to counter the growing extremism. Further, there is little evidence to suggest that the current approach can succeed. Instead of creating a wedge between extremist leaders and their predominantly moderate populations, our efforts are pushing the populations into the extremist camp. The general skepticism towards U.S. motivations coupled with the rhetoric of religious leaders battling for influence and power creates a nearly impossible obstacle. So the question is how we create the necessary wedge.
I recently posted a video clip of portions of an interview in which Bill Clinton suggested that the best advice he could give our current President would be to move forward with the creation of a Palestinian state. That advice follows on my own contention that the key to solving the radical extremism, as well as the prevailing mistrust and anti-American sentiment, is to build a Palestinian state and reestablish the U.S. as a legitimate broker for peace within the region.
In this equation, the U.S. is able to create the wedge that will be necessary to embolden the populations within the Middle East to join the effort to extinguish extremism and terrorism. At the moment, they have no reason to believe that the U.S. and Israel are ever going to establish a Palestinian state...a belief that overwhelms what might otherwise be moderate leanings and leaves many within the region vulnerable to assertions by extremists that they are in fact engaged in a clash of civilizations whereby the U.S. is intent upon exporting Western values and culture at the expense of traditional Islamic doctrine.
I contend that the Iraqi conflict, as well as the prevailing Middle East tensions, will be lessened in equal proportion to the success we achieve in providing for a Palestinian state. Given that the NIE assessment posits that, "If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives", then it would be reasonable to conclude that any progress with the Palestinian issue will greatly enhance the speculative potentiality of the NIE report. Absent the Palestinian effort, I'm of the opinion that the NIE timeframe is overly optimistic and dependent upon a relatively static progression without the prevalence of unforeseen events and escalations...which seems unlikely at best.
Frankly, I doubt that the existing Republican approach or the alternative of withdrawal supported by a number Democrats will serve to alleviate the existing conditions and bring relative stability to the troubled region. Neither approach has the wherewithal to alter the prevailing sentiment. Conversely, a voluntary effort that would demonstrate our ability to discern the profound importance of a successful Palestinian state would, in my opinion, yield exponential goodwill. Given the current conditions, such an effort has little risk.