THE CASE FOR REDEPLOYMENT. "Retreating from Iraq and 'redeploying' to Okinawa is not a sufficient response" to the threat of terrorism, wrote White House hack Peter Wehner yesterday. Okinawa, of course, is a straw man. But there's ample reason to believe that redeploying resources out of Iraq and to other locations would be very helpful in fighting terrorism:

  • We could send more troops to Afghanistan, where our military venture is running into some significant problems but where there are still much better prospects for success than in Iraq.
  • We could reassign Arabic-speaking U.S. government personnel to translating and monitoring signals that intelligence has gathered from terrorism suspects instead of having them do civil affairs work and train Iraqi security forces.
  • We could stop using such a high proportion of our surveillance satellites on force protection in Iraq and use them to better monitor the rest of the world and get a better handle on what's going on in the Horn of Africa, Central Asia, and other chaotic areas with large Muslim populations.
  • We would save money that could be spent on homeland security or bribing Pakistan to help us out more, or whatever else you like.
  • Officials at the Pentagon and the National Security Council could devote a larger proportion of their time to overseeing counterterrorism operations and less to making Iraq-related decisions.

One could go on like this, but I think it's cut and dry. I tend to think the time when a sound withdrawal plan could actually help Iraq has passed, but there's absolutely no question whatsoever in my mind that if we redeployed the over 100,000 American soldiers and large numbers of civilians and private contractors out of Iraq, this would free up an enormous quantity of resources that would seriously invigorate our operations against al Qaeda. The initial decision to invade Iraq reflected the view that the al Qaeda problem per se wasn't worth worrying about so much and that we could afford to launch a massive effort to do something else, and the recent push to make Iran the main focus of our foreign policy reflects a similar calculus.

But you really can't have it both ways. The more seriously you take the threat of terrorist attacks mounted or inspired by al Qaeda, the more you need to focus national resources and attention on that problem. That means, in turn, devoting less resources to other things. The war in Iraq isn't an abstraction -- lots and lots of people are spending their time fighting it, supporting it logistically, overseeing it, etc., and lots of money and equipment is at their disposal. If we had them not do that, they could do something else instead.

--Matthew Yglesias

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