Iraqi Terrorism

IRAQI TERRORISM….Matt Yglesias notes a popular meme developing that says the bombing of the UN building in Baghdad, far from indicating a meltdown in Iraq, is actually an indication of desperation on the part of whoever it was that did it. (The Ba’athist underground? Al-Qaeda? Someone else? Nobody knows, but whoever it was, they only did it because they had run out of other options.)

There’s a broad sense in which this is true, of course. Terrorism is seldom a genuinely potent military tactic, and you generally don’t resort to it if you have the power to do something more effective.

At the same time ? and this point is so banal I’m almost afraid to make it ? this is the Middle East we’re talking about. Israel has spent 50 years fighting terrorists using means far more punitive than anything the United States is willing to bring to bear, and it hasn’t slowed down the terrorists even a tiny bit. Terrorism is not a last resort in the Middle East, it’s a standard form of warfare.

So desperate they may be, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that means our enemies are at the end of their rope. The evidence, I think, points in exactly the opposite direction.

On a broader note, there’s a thin line between showing confidence and underestimating your enemy, and I fear that many pro-war partisans may be crossing over it. At every stage, the Bush team has shown precious little understanding of how difficult the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq would be, and as near as I can tell they’re continuing down this path. If they don’t face reality soon, it’s going to be too late.

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