The release of the newest National Intelligent Estimate (NIE) by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) articulates what most think tanks had already concluded, that U.S. invasions of Afganistan and Iraq have not had the desired effects of constraining and marginalizing Al Qaeda. The NIE indicates that Al Qaeda has grown both in numbers and in the proficiency of their tactics. Particularly, the invasion of Iraq has mobilized the muslim world and the radical elements within that broad community has grown significantly.
To a great extent, this is disheartening news. Despite the billions spent, the thousands of lives lost, the basic freedoms surrendered, and the dividing of an already divided country, we are probably less safe today than we were when the towers fell.
For the record, I supported the decision to go into Afganistan. However, I opposed the decision to invade Iraq. However, I have also opposed timetables for withdrawal, which is something I believe emboldens the insurgents in Iraq. However, I understand the angst felt among Democrats, who re-took the House and Senate on the basis of the public demanding a new direction in Iraq. The frustrating thing about this war is that the President was given political cover from the "Iraq Study Group" to take a different, more diplomatic approach to the issues in the middle east. However, the surge idea seems to be too little and probably too late to resolve the problems in Iraq.
I believe that the United States and her allies had a window of opportunity after the capture of Bagdad that was ultimately botched by an administration that seemed incapable of reconstructing Iraq and providing the manpower and infrastructure to pull off the successful building of a workable coalition government in Iraq. The day is fast approaching when we will need to consider Iraq a sunk cost. Unfortunately, the damage this will do to the credibility of the United States will be considerable, as will the risks of wider conflicts erupting in the middle east, putting at risk the oil supplies our nation is dependent upon.
Whomever takes up residence in the White House in January of 2009, will have their hands full with some of the most complicated foreign policy challenges our nation has faced in a long time. We'd better choose wisely.