President Know-Nothing

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Ilan Goldenberg flags Bush talking an unusually strong brand of nonsense:

Out of such chaos in Iraq, the terrorist movement could emerge emboldened -- with new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America. An emboldened al Qaeda with access to Iraq's oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations.

Ilan focused on the implausibility of al-Qaeda gaining control over Iraq's oil fields (they're not in the Sunni Arab parts of Iraq, among other things). I would also note that were this bizarre scenario to unfold, it would be pretty trivial for the U.S. military to capture or control any AQI-held oil fields -- a poorly equipped guerilla force can't defend a fixed position in the open.

On top of that, though, this business about al-Qaeda securing a recruiting boon from us leaving Iraq is bizarre. According to MNF-Iraq, the occupation of Iraq is the main fact driving recruits to join AQI. Absent the occupation, there's no recruiting pitch. Pearl Harbor was a boon to U.S. military recruiting, VJ Day wasn't. And what's this business about them acquiring "an even greater determination to dominate the region and harm America." Does Bush really think they lack determination now?

It's striking how much of conservative thinking about national security these days centers around subjective factors -- determination, emboldening, "claiming victory" -- rather than on objective assessments. Objectively speaking, withdrawing from Iraq would cut off a major line of recruiting for al-Qaeda while simultaneously freeing up vast quantities of American manpower and other resources. How "bold" that makes al-Qaeda leaders feel (and you've got to figure these fuckers were pretty "emboldened' already when they blew up the twin towers, right?) has nothing to do with anything.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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