Here's how Gerecht dismisses the argument that Iraq is the sine qua non inflaming the radical Islamic psyche:
In these critics' distorted perspective, the singular provocation of the Iraq war trumps all the other well-known spurs to jihadist fury: the American flight from Beirut after the bombings in 1983, the American flight from Somalia after "Black Hawk down," the attack on the U.S. embassies in Africa, the USS Cole, 9/11, the continual bombing of Iraq under the Clinton administration, the economic sanctions against Saddam's regime that Muslims saw as choking the Iraqi people. The Iraq war, as the critics see it, overwhelms the American attack on the Taliban and bin Laden, the Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan, bin Laden's survivor charisma, the Pakistani madrassa machine, General Pervez Musharraf's retreat from Waziristan, the Saudi Wahhabi multitentacled missionary-money machine--still the most influential conveyer of anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian hatred in the world--the existence of Israel, the Israeli retreat from Lebanon in 2000, Palestinian suicide bombings, the resurgence of Hezbollah, the triumph of American pop culture in Muslim lands, the Satanic Verses, Danish cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, the Western assault on traditional sexual ethics and the God-ordained male domination of the Muslim home, the constant, positivist legal assault on the Holy Law, American and European support for Muslim dictatorships, the Western-centered, Western-aping, increasingly brutal Muslim regimes that have transgressed against God ever since Napoleon routed the mameluks outside Alexandria in 1798, and the unbearable Western military supremacy that reversed a millennium of nearly uninterrupted Muslim triumphs. To these critics, the Iraq war somehow is uglier than the whole cosmological affront of the modern world: Western Christians, Jews, and atheists on top; Asian Buddhists, Confucians, and Shintoists gaining power; the Hindu pantheists rising; and the Muslims, Allah's chosen people, descending.All this is dismissed by critics of the Bush administration, Gerecht notes. Not only that, things could be terribly worse in Iraq should the U.S. surrender the field to the Islamofascists:
Osama bin Laden has always claimed that he and his followers are the "strong horse" and that the United States is a "weak horse," unable to sustain a long war against the faithful. A major American humiliation in Iraq would probably produce what the jihad-rising crowd think Iraq is already: an extraordinary stimulus to holy-warrior passion--Beirut, Mogadishu, the embassy bombings, the Cole, and 9/11 all rolled into one. The critics should at least try to make the argument that the hell we have now is worse than the whirlwind we will reap after we run.Further:
A forceful U.S. presence in Iraq was always the key to ensuring that Iraq's national identity had a chance to congeal peacefully--that the Sunni will to power was contained, that Shiite fear and loathing of the Baathists and Sunni fundamentalists didn't ignite into all-consuming revenge, destroying the Shiite center led by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, and that Kurdish separatism didn't flare. We're beyond that now. But we're not beyond checking the worst tendencies within Iraqi society.
We are certainly not beyond the chance that the Iraqis can govern themselves more humanely than they were governed under Saddam Hussein. Whoever thinks Iraq is hell on earth now is suffering from a failure of imagination. If we leave, it will, in all probability, get vastly worse.
This is sobering analysis for those contemplating an Iraqi withdrawal, myself included.