White House officials—and their surrogates—tend to insist that Iraq is full of foreign jihadis. That fits nicely with their line that Iraq is just one front in the wider War on Terror TM. Critics of the administration, such as myself, have often flagged evidence that there don’t seem to be that many foreign fighters. Yet at the same time, we’ve (OK, I’ve) wholeheartedly agreed with the Richard Clarke-ian line that Iraq is AQ’s dream recruiting video.
How do you reconcile those last points? I don’t think it’s a black and white issue—it seems fairly obvious to me that our invasion of Iraq and the subsequent bungling of the occupation and guerrilla war is indeed serving to piss off many Muslim “undecideds.” But how much?
Doesn’t the lack of foreign fighters suggest we’ve not yet been accorded the much haloed “infidel” status, say, the Soviets in Afghanistan? In other words, many Muslims might be increasingly horrified and angry at the U.S.'s Iraq actions—for which we and the world will no doubt pay at various points—but unlike Afghanistan, few seem to be willing to put their lives on the lines for it. At least not yet.
P.S. This also reminds me of a related notion I’ve been batting around: I’ve long suspected, or understood, that there are far fewer international-focused jihadis than either the administration or often-times its critics have maintained. I do think they’re a jihadi movement, I just think most of them are locally focused.
Yes, of course some want to go long-distance—i.e. after the U.S. But if there are so many motivated to that, why hasn’t there been another jihadi attack in the U.S.? I’m not talking about a coordinated, complex event like 9-11. I’m wondering why nobody has, say, sprayed a NY subway with an AK-47. (Note to the FBI: I’m not advocating that, thank you.) There are essentially no security barriers stopping someone from doing that.
Now, one reason it hasn't happened could be that AQ prefers to hold off and focus on “spectacular” attacks. Maybe. But then AQ isn’t really a cohesive organization and is more of a movement, with supporters encouraged to wreak havoc as they can. (See Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Turkey, Spain, Indonesia, and Morocco--all victims of seemingly independently operating AQ sympathizers ) So why haven't they hit the U.S.? My guess: Without some local component (ending the occupation of Iraq, toppling the House of Saud, etc.) in the end very few willing and motivated enough to "martyr" themselves.