In today's Sunday Times (UK), Andrew Sullivan offers a pronouncement about the 2002-03 over about whether to remove Saddam Hussein --
In war and in politics unexamined axioms are always dangerous. That much we learnt from 2003. The axiom driving policy then was that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. On that unquestioned assumption, all the debate rested. And yet the axiom was false.
This will come as news to the many people who didn't think Saddam had WMDs, and to those who thought the purpose of getting UN weapons inspectors in was to find out whether he did.
Anyway, Sullivan's main point (as he has been arguing recently) is that US withdrawal from Iraq would be a good thing because it provoke a cathartic all-out war in the Middle East. It's really that simple. Among the many problems with this axiom, if you will, is that such a war would be bad for al Qaeda --
But if America withdrew from Iraq and a Sunni-Shi’ite war took off, the narrative of the long war would inevitably change. It would go from Islam versus the West to Islam versus itself. Escalating conflict in the Arab Muslim world would only be fully explicable in terms of the Sunni-Shi’ite split.
Instantly, Sunni Al-Qaeda would have a serious enemy close at hand: Shi’ite Iran. Think of this not as a “divide and conquer” strategy so much as a “divide and get out of the way” strategy. And with deft handling it could conceivably reap dividends in the long run.
Yet who would be weakened by such a war, even assuming it could be contained from a distance? Regimes that, in the words of a political sage --
half of which are governed by the military and the other half of which are governed by the sons of kings and presidents; and we have a long experience with them. In both categories, you find many who are characterised by hubris, arrogance, greed, and unlawful acquisition of money.
The words of Osama bin Laden -- who could watch the big war on TV from the safety of Pakistan.