There has been a bunch of debate going on lately because of yet more leaks of classified information from our “intelligence” agencies. Again my concern is still more about why this continued assault on the Bush administration from within the ranks of the CIA, FBI, NSA etc. is tolerated. It has gone on so long, and has been so damaging, that I can only assume that there is an active conspiracy within these organizations to undermine the GW Bush administration. That’s the big story, the elephant in the room that no reporter seems to care about.

However, even the most rational analysis I’ve seen on this issue is making bad assumptions. The most common bad assumption I’ve seen is that the Iraq invasion has created more terrorists than would have been created “if we hadn’t gone into Iraq.” The problem with this analysis (and I use that word reluctantly since I believe there has actually been very little analysis) is that it completely ignores the fact that every terrorist who has commented on the issue has listed the war in Afghanistan as an equal motivation for their hatred of the U.S. as the war in Iraq. So the only way to have avoided “creating new terrorists” would have been to not go to war in either country. If we want to do an actual analysis of the incremental increase in terrorists that the war in Iraq has “created” we have to first calculate how many additional terrorists the war in Afghanistan alone would have created. My personal opinion is that there are darn few Islamists who saw Iraq as “the last straw”. Their own words indicate that Afghanistan was more than enough motivation for them.

And that ignores an even more interesting question, which is “How many more terrorists would we have if we had rolled over and essentially surrendered to the terrorists after 9/11?” This is a very compelling question to me because there is no doubt that every intelligence assessment we have had of the growth of Al Qada shows that Al Qada exploded in growth throughout the 90s when Bill Clinton essentially allowed them one victory after another without even pretending to respond to their attacks. So if the 9/11 attacks had been followed by yet another US response of “it’s all our fault, we need to understand the terrorists” my only rational conclusion is that would have led to a further explosion of membership in Al Qada and other terrorist groups since that is what led to the rapid growth up until 9/11.

So as with most things, these sorts of “analyses” are merely political grandstanding by people who have axes to grind. The truth is that we have no idea what the terrorist landscape would look like today if we had not invaded Iraq. And anyone who tells you we do know, and can do some sort of calculation of what Iraq has done to increase terrorists, is either a fool or a partisan. Or both.