Derb spanks his boss

John Derbyshire writes to Rich Lowry on NRO:

I apologize for not having made myself sufficiently clear.

—Yes, I want to pull out of Iraq.

—Yes, I want to kill jihadis everywhere we can find them, certainly including Iraq.

I think our point of disagreement is that you believe (apparently) that in order to kill jihadis in country X, or country Y, or country Z, we need to maintain a huge armed presence in X, Y, and Z. Heaven forbid this be true!

I don’t mean to trivialize your point of view. Far from it–I know you hang out with a lot of senior Washington and DoD types way above my pay grade, hear a lot of stuff you can’t publish, & have been thinking hard about Iraq for 3 years. Could that, perhaps, have made you a little too Iraqocentric? You seem to be saying: “Hey, Derb, you say you want to kill all the jihadis in Iraq, yet you want to pull us out of Iraq. Does not compute!” Or perhaps: “Hey, look, we have this army in Iraq, for whatever reason, and it’s a great place to kill jihadis. So why would anyone want us to withdraw?”

My opinion is that, from the point of view of killing jihadis — a thing I strongly favor — Iraq is not that important. It is not even the most jihadi-ridden nation — Pakistan and Saudi Arabia easily outrank it on that scale. The “flypaper” theory — that all the jihadis in the world are going to flock to Iraq so we can kill ’em — is just silly. Ask a Londoner.

There are more ways to kill a cat than by choking it with cream, and there are more ways to fight the War on Terror than with massive conventional-force assaults and Wilsonian nation-bulding efforts. We really ought to be devising and practicing those ways, instead of wasting our substance on Iraq.

There are many other ways to kill jihadis in country X. If X = Britain, for example, we can depend on the British themselves doing it for us (give or take the odd Brazilian electrician). The same applies to Australia, and all over the Anglosphere. In other civilized nations, matters are not so clear. Could we depend on, say, Greece taking care of any jihadis on their territory, to our satisfaction?

Outside the pale of civilization — a phrase that, I believe, fairly describes the Muslim Middle East — things are much more difficult. Sending in 130,000 troops to occupy country X is not a bad idea, I suppose; but then, what do you do about country Y and country Z? See the difficulty?

I believe, and hope, that there are ways to kill satisfactory numbers of jihadis without either (a) having a dependable local government to do it for us, or (b) placing 130,000 Americans in the offending nation.

Your idea — the administration’s idea — is that we convert Iraq (and then, I suppose, country Y and country Z) into Anglosphere-type nations, whom we can depend on to take care of matters themselves, using their own police and army. I believe — and I am sorry to be blunt about it — that this is a preposterous fantasy. I should be sufficiently astounded if we could turn Iraq into a Greece, or a Mexico. We might, with luck, turn it into a Saudi Arabia, but… Surely you see the problem?

I hope that makes things clear. Now perhaps you could clarify something for me.

You are speaking here, and in your last couple of posts, as if the main point of being in Iraq is to kill local jihadis more easily.

So, were you arguing back in 2002 and 2003 that the main reason we ought to invade Iraq was to kill local jihadis more easily? Was that your rationale, or some large compnent of your rationale, for supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom at that time? If it was not — if, at some point between spring of 2003 and now, you changed your rationale for our presence in Iraq — how would you go about persuading an impartial observer that your change of rationale was not motivated by blind loyalty to this administration?

Blind loyalty to the Bush administration? NRO? Derb might want to watch his tongue, or he’ll find himself writing for WND soon… not that it’s seemed to hurt Ann Coulter in the least.

And yes, I’m very much in agreement with his “preposterous fantasy” statement. That’s been my view of the notion of nation-building in Iraq since the beginning, and was the primary reason for my many reservations about supporting the initial invasion.

London and Madrid and Egypt make it quite clear that the concept of an occupied Iraq as an irresistible magnet to which terrorists will be drawn like bugs to a zapper has worked out about as well as skeptics like Derb and I thought it would. In fact, one could argue that leaving our borders open and sending our troops over there is a recipe for disaster.