Wednesday, June 16, 2010

As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap, Foreign Policy Edition

"The reasons why the United States finds itself supporting a 12-year-old gunmen in Somalia help explain recent missteps in the war on terrorism." Read The New York Times, Lessons from Somalia’s Young Soldiers, which says, among other things:

"[T]wo morals of this sad story are particularly noteworthy.

1) Military intervention can take an essentially local Islamist movement and turn it into a threat to the United States by driving it into alliance with America’s enemies. It was after the American-Ethiopian intervention that al-Shabaab crystallized and cultivated strong ties with Al Qaeda.

2) Once we’ve thus internationalized tensions that had been largely local — once we’ve strengthened bonds between locals and Al Qaeda, and strengthened the America-versus-Islam narrative deployed by jihadist recruiters — American Muslims who for whatever reason are already unstable become vulnerable to that recruiting pitch. Only this month, two Americans were arrested as they headed to Somalia to join the international war against crusaders. (The journalist Adam Serwer has been almost alone in noting the link between the cultivation of these jihadists and the 2006 Ethiopian-American intervention.)

Does any of this sound eerily familiar? It should. Here’s why:

1) In Iraq, the jihadist group that created so much carnage — “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia” — didn’t even exist in that form until we invaded. Before the war it wasn’t affiliated with Al Qaeda (much less called Al Qaeda) and was more anti-Jordanian government than anti-American.

2) In Afghanistan, our troop presence in rural villages is driving local leaders who resist occupation into the arms of Taliban Central, based in Pakistan. Meanwhile, our intervention in both Afghanistan and (via drone strikes) Pakistan seems to be strengthening Taliban Central’s bond to Al Qaeda. (Opinions differ over how close Al Qaeda’s relationship to the Taliban was before the Afghanistan war, but in any event our becoming their common enemy has brought a convergence of their strategic goals.)

And with both Iraq and Afghanistan, as with Somalia, our involvement in conflict helps nurture terrorists here at home. The Fort Hood shooter was outraged by both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the Times Square bomber was upset by the Iraq war and the Pakistani drone attacks that are spillover from the Afghanistan war.

Terrorists like these create exactly what Al Qaeda wants: American suspicion of American Muslims and even attacks on American mosques. Needless to say, this kind of domestic atmosphere can create more homegrown terrorists, which can further intensify the atmosphere, which can create more homegrown terrorists and so on. This is Osama bin Laden’s dream, and our foreign policy seems almost designed to make it a reality."