The recent Special Forces strike in Somalia illustrates once and again the foolhardiness of those who want us out of Iraq. While Ted Kennedy spouts his usual rhetoric in the National Press Club, drawing fatuous comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq, between the Viet Cong and the motley crew we face in Iraq, our enemy is being chased in the deserts of Somalia just as it is in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
As we hunt down the killers who attacked our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya long before there ever was an Iraq war, even long before September 11 finally awakened us to the shape of the new world we live in, we have to remind ourselves again and again that our enemies in the war on terrorism were not created by our action in Iraq, nor will they disappear after we leave that country to its own devices.
This is indeed a nonlinear war in more ways than one. As their original leadership, the Bin Laden-Zawahiri types, sit and contemplate events from the caves of the Afghani-Pakistan border, new Al-Qaeda leaderships sprout around the globe, wherever there are young, impressionable, Muslim men vulnerable to the persuasive tactics of ruthless, fanatic, and anti-Western mentors. With calculated opportunism, they choose their targets according to the vulnerabilities of the soft underbellies of Western societies, whether it is the public transportation systems in Europe or transatlantic airlines—or innocent civilians in Iraq or Afghanistan. The events in Somalia remind of us of certain lessons we should have learned by now.
Lesson 1. The enemy in Iraq, like that in Afghanistan, in Europe, in America, or the Philippines, is the same. It may not share the same structure or leadership, but its nature doesn’t vary much.
Lesson 2. Retreating in the face of that enemy is construed by it as weakness on our part—a weakness that was tested in 9/11, in London, in Madrid, and before, in Nairobi and Dar Essalam.