Cliff May

For the sake of argument, imagine that opponents of the war in Iraq are right. Suppose that our military -- designed to confront a different enemy, on a different battlefield, in a different era -- has met its match. Suppose that the war against al-Qaeda in Iraq, as well as against various Iranian-backed Shia militias, can not be won, and that staying on in Iraq can do nothing to protect America’s vital national security interests.

If that’s true, we must prepare for defeat in Afghanistan as well. There is no reason to believe that the strategy being used against us in Iraq will be less effective 1,400 miles further east.

After exiting from Iraq and Afghanistan, it is inconceivable that we would then send U.S. forces into the wild and mountainous “frontier” provinces of northwest Pakistan where Osama bin Ladin has been rebuilding his base. Nor will we be able to exert much pressure on Pakistan’s government to take serious action. Pakistan enjoyed cordial relations with the Taliban and al-Qaeda prior to 9/11/01. Only after that attack, when Americans rose up in anger, did Pakistani leaders decide it would be wise to realign. Expect Pakistan to shift yet again should America retreat in humiliation from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is probable that Militant Islamists would soon rise to power in other countries as well. Start with Jordan, a nation that already has been attacked by suicide-bombers dispatched by al-Qaeda in Iraq. Move on to Bangladesh. Add Lebanon, too, a fledgling democracy under intense pressure from Hezbollah, Iran’s longtime terrorist proxy.

Gaza is now ruled by Hamas, a terrorist organization supported by both Iran and Sunni extremists in league with al-Qaeda. Its short-term ambition will be to take over the West Bank as well.

Opponents of the U.S. mission in Iraq say they want to “change course.” Most refuse to specify what their new course would be. Others say they want U.S. troops to “redeploy” to friendly countries in the region. But in international relations, nothing cools a friendship like defeat. For any regime to rely on the U.S. for security after the U.S. has abandoned Iraq would be high-risk. In fact, it would soon become apparent that the continuing presence of American forces invites subversion, terrorism and assassination of those in power.

Over time, the only Muslim-majority states to resist the Islamists will be those that accommodate the Islamists. The Europeans, too, will cut their deals.

Israel will hold on – or die trying. You can’t imagine a second Holocaust within a hundred years? Imagine harder.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.