IRAQ A STEPPINGSTONE? Jack Kelly, featured in today’s RCP, makes that bold assertion. He argues this war is merely a first battle in a much larger one:

The United States is at war. We weren’t aware we were at war until Sept. 11, 2001, but the war began well before then. Muslim extremists attacked Army Rangers in Somalia in 1993; the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996; our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; the USS Cole in the port of Aden in 2000 — but we didn’t connect the dots. It took a horrible slaughter on our own soil before we paid attention to the gathering danger.

We are at war with Islamic extremists who hate us because we are rich and powerful, because we don’t enslave women or murder Jews. We are guilty of no provocation save our mere existence. So this is not a conflict which can be resolved by appeasement or negotiation. We must destroy them, or they will destroy us.


Major wars are a series of campaigns, each of them conducted to gain a vital steppingstone on the road to victory, but none of them sufficient by themselves to achieve victory. Afghanistan was a campaign in the war on terror, the ongoing pursuit of al-Qaida another, Iraq a third. More will follow.

Some campaigns are more important than others. To use a WWII analogy, the Afghan campaign was Guadalcanal or New Guinea — America fighting back, blunting the enemy’s offensive, giving us the momentum. Iraq, I think, will be comparable to the liberation of the Philippines — a body blow to the enemy, one that virtually guarantees his ultimate defeat.

The disarmament of Iraq and the liberation of its people are terrific ends in themselves. But Iraq is more properly viewed as just another steppingstone.

I think, or maybe just hope, Kelly is overstating the case. But the piece is worth a read.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.