Karen Hughes, our
PR agent head of public diplomacy to the world, has good news: Al Qaeda’s popularity in Islamic countries is dropping even more quickly than our own. She has to be able to boast about something , since it has been on her watch (though it is obviously out of her control) that unfavourable attitudes towards the United States have risen sharply in some of the very countries she cites in this op-ed. When 64% of Turks view the U.S. as the greatest threat to Turkey, it’s fair to say that the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs has not been very successful. Of course, it’s impossible for public diplomacy to work when the government is pursuing a disastrous and wildly unpopular foreign policy.
But here’s a different point: if such an overwhelming majority of people in both Iraq and Afghanistan hate Al Qaeda so, there seems little chance of a terrorist haven being established in either place. How can anyone still believe the claim that our soldiers must remain to prevent the creation of an Al Qaeda sanctuary? If the people are the center of gravity in insurgency, jihadis in Anbar have already lost, which does not necessarily mean that we win. These figures seem to be an encouraging sign that, whatever happens in the wake of a withdrawal from Iraq, an Al Qaeda safe haven is not in the cards. If our soldiers are going to continue to risk their lives in Iraq, the administration should be clear about why: it will be to keep warring Iraqi factions from destroying each other. This is not enough to justify an ongoing American presence, however large or small.