Always read Fouad Ajami:
Islamic terror did not wait on the Iraq war. The assertion that Islamic terrorism has “metastasized and spread across the globe” because of Iraq takes at face value what the jihadists themselves proclaim. It would stand to reason that their Web sites, and the audiotapes of their leaders, would trumpet their attachment to the cause of Iraq. It is inevitable that American analysts glued to jihadist cyberspace, and lacking intimate knowledge of Arab ways, would take the jihadists at their word. But Islamic radicals have not lacked for grievances. The anti-Americanism and antimodernism that brought them onto American soil five years ago predated Iraq. For the good part of two decades, jihadist terror blew at will, driven by the conviction in the lands of Islam and its diaspora communities that America was a pampered land with little zeal for bloody struggles.
The declassified portions of the NIE are not particularly profound in the reading of Islamism. Their sociologese is of a piece with a big body of writing on Islamist movements–that the resentments of these movements arise out of “anger, humiliation and a sense of powerlessness” in the face of the West. I dare guess that were Ayman al-Zawahiri to make his way through this report, he would marvel at the naïveté of those who set out to read him and his fellow warriors of the faith. Ayoob al-Masri (Zarqawi’s successor in Iraq) would not find himself and his phobias and his will to power in this “infidel document.” …
We needn’t give credence to the assertion of President Bush–that the jihadists would turn up in our cities if we pulled up stakes from Baghdad –to recognize that a terrible price would be paid were we to opt for a hasty and unseemly withdrawal from Iraq. This is a region with a keen eye for the weakness of strangers.