Tuesday, February 19, 2008

BBC's US chief thinks al-Qaeda is rooting for McCain

I want to thank Justin Webb, the BBC's North America editor, for helping to shift the blogger's block/laziness/crisis of confidence I've been experiencing for the past couple of months. What got the juices flowing again was a post by Webb on his blog entitled Al-Qaeda's Choice. In the post Webb is commenting on an article in the London Times, in which William Rees-Mogg suggests that al-Qaeda would rather see Barack Obama become the next President of the US than John McCain.

Webb concludes:

Islamic terrorists want war. They want suffering - among others and their own people alike.

They would surely surmise that McCain will give them what they want. Bin Laden himself intervened with what many thought was the effect of keeping President Bush in power in 2004 with that weird tape just before the poll.

I think al-Qaeda would back McCain - that is not an argument for or against America backing him, but it seems to me that the vague assumption that the terrorists would back a lefty is lazy thinking...

There's certainly some lazy thinking going on here, but it's not on the part of Rees-Mogg. Assuming that Webb is serious, it's alarming that a person with such a simplistic view of such an important issue plays a significant part in shaping the way in which people around the world view America and its politics.

Webb foolishly suggests that al-Qaeda would rather see McCain as president than Obama because McCain will ‘give them what they want’ – ie continuing war. He overlooks a fact that should be obvious to anyone who takes an interest in these things: war for al-Qaeda is not an end in itself but a means to an end, and Obama’s policies of retreat and appeasement will help them to achieve their goals.

I posted a comment on Webb's piece. It hasn't appeared yet, although it may do in due course. I reproduce it below, partly in case it doesn't appear on Webb's blog, but mostly because much of what I wrote is stuff I've been meaning to post here for a while…


Either you're being disingenuous, or what I've been mistaking for anti-American bias for so long is in fact naivety.

Who do you really think al-Qaeda wants to win the election?

McCain, who was one of the biggest supporters of a policy that has seen al-Qaeda pushed to the brink of defeat in Iraq, with key leaders being killed there and elsewhere; who has pledged to continue the fight for as long as is necessary; and who isn't afraid to call the threat of Islamic extremism by its true name?

Or Obama, who has promised to withdraw US troops from Iraq despite knowing that it will enable al-Qaeda to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and turn Iraq into a terror state – Afghanistan with oil wealth; who refuses to even talk about the threat from Islamic extremism; and who has pledged to meet with the leaders of the world's most dangerous terrorist states within weeks of taking office?

Do you seriously think for one moment that a US withdrawal from Iraq will mean an end to the wider war that Islamic extremists are waging against us? It won't. It will simply mean that instead of being driven from Iraq and suffering a crushing propaganda defeat, al-Qaeda will be able to retake enough of that country to establish bases (and no, Obama, those bases won't take the form of rows of tents and assault courses in the middle of the desert, with the flag of al- Qaeda flying above the parade ground, which you'll be able to bomb with impunity from Kuwait; they'll be blended invisibly and inextricably into re-subjugated Sunni communities who will be pushed back into the arms of the extremists as a result of their betrayal by the US). It will be free to intensify its efforts to topple the fragile government in Afghanistan, from where Obama is also likely to retreat, just as soon as he's picked up his Nobel Peace Prize for withdrawing from Iraq. And al-Qaeda will be free to launch attacks throughout the Middle East and Europe, and of course against the US.

How long do you think it will be before a gloating bin Laden films his first video message to the world inside a 'liberated' Iraq? And what lessons, and how much inspiration, do you think other terrorist organisations and their state sponsors will draw from a US defeat?

You're absolutely right about one thing however, obvious though it is. You wrote:

Islamic terrorists want war. They want suffering - among others and their own people alike.

I can't believe I'm hearing that from you; your bĂȘte noir, President Bush, couldn't have put it better himself. It's just a shame that you and your colleagues don't make this point more forcefully and more often, and in an environment rather more public than your blog – on the 6 o'clock or 10 o'clock news bulletins on BBC1 for example, or on the front page of your news website that's read by millions around the globe. Or would that be frowned on as 'editorialising'?

Instead, along with the mainstream US media, the BBC too often passes off acts of terrorism as some kind of unfortunate and inexplicable natural disaster, or actually makes excuses for it (most egregiously in Gaza, but in Iraq and Afghanistan too), while seizing with something approaching glee on every mistake made or perceived transgression committed by the US, and every setback that it suffers. I can understand this attitude from the utterly defeated hard left, but why is it that even among the 'soft left' (who of course don't see themselves as taking sides at all, but as fair-minded spokespeople for some imagined global 'consensus'), the desire to see Bush's America humiliated appears to trump the desire to see genuine evil defeated?

Yes, Islamic terrorists want war. But they know they can't win on the battlefields of Anbar or Helmand without first winning on the battlefield of public opinion. It's a strategy that succeeded spectacularly in Spain four years ago, and an Obama victory will be a sure sign of further progress on that front.


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/19/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Bald Headed Geek said...

Fabulous post. Well-reasoned, very well thought-out!