WHAT AL-QAEDA WANTS. Peter Bergen, who probably knows more about al-Qaeda than just about anyone else alive, argues in today's New York Times that withdrawal from Iraq would, indeed, be giving the terrorist group what they want. Al-Qaeda's aim, he argues, is to acquire a slice of territory that they can control. The likeliest spot is in the Sunni-dominated areas of central and western Iraq. To pull out would be essentially ceding those spots to al-Qaeda, and would fit the group's master narrative of American weakness.
It's worth noting that this is just one more way in which Bush's ill-fated invasion of Iraq was manna from heaven for bin Laden. Had Zawahiri mastered Manchurian technology and installed his controllable surrogate in the White House, he could hardly have done a better job. Not to engage in nostalgia for tyrants, but Saddam Hussein, for all his crimes, neither had WMDs nor any interest in ceding portions of his country to jihadists. That said, the situation is what it is, and Peter Bergen is a guy worth taking seriously. But I'd like to hear our own experts weigh in. Spence? Rob? Blake? What say you?