Charles Krauthammer

"Our bill calls for the redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq so that we can focus more fully on the real war on terror, which is in Afghanistan."

-- Speaker Nancy Pelosi, March 8

The Senate and the House have both passed bills for ending the Iraq War, or at least liquidating the American involvement in it. The resolutions, approved by the barest majorities, were underpinned by one unmistakable theme: wrong war, wrong place, distracting us from the real war that is elsewhere.

Where? In Afghanistan. The emphasis on Afghanistan echoed across the Democratic aisle in Congress from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to former admiral and now Rep. Joe Sestak. It is a staple of the three leading Democratic candidates for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. It is the constant refrain of their last presidential candidate, John Kerry, and of their current party leader, Howard Dean, who complains ``we don't have enough troops in Afghanistan. That's where the real war on terror is."

Of all the arguments for pulling out of Iraq, its comparative unimportance vis- a-vis Afghanistan is the least serious.

And not just because this argument assumes that the world's one superpower, which spends more on defense every year than the rest of the world combineddoes not have the capacity to fight an insurgency in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. But because it assumes that Afghanistan is strategically more important than Iraq.

Thought experiment: Bring in a completely neutral observer -- a Martian -- and point out to him that the United States is involved in two hot wars against radical Islamic insurgents. One is in Afghanistan, a geographically marginal backwater with no resources, no industrial and no technological infrastructure. The other is in Iraq, one of the three principal Arab states, with untold oil wealth, an educated population, an advanced military and technological infrastructure which, though suffering decay in the later Saddam years, could easily be revived if it falls into the right (i.e. wrong) hands. Add to that the fact that its strategic location would give its rulers inordinate influence over the entire Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. Then ask your Martian: Which is the more important battle? He would not even understand why you are asking the question.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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