This is why concentrating on Iraq has lead to such a convoluted and – to some – apparently contradictory foreign policy on behalf of the UK/US alliance.
A Saudi Arabian elite bankrolled much of al Quaida’s activites in the past, and bin Laden is from there. Most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. In Saudi, the tradition of donating to fundamentalist muslim groups by oil-wealthy families is practically considered on a par with donating to benevolent church charities.
In the bizarre world of diplomacy, since Saudi Arabia is a US ally, the US – although privately it would like to – cannot deal with Saudi’s covert backing of terrorist groups by attacking it. And obviously it holds the sacred sites of Medina and Mecca.
So, strategically, by re-constituting Iraq as a West-friendly and democratic nation, the west would achieve two things.
1. The creation of a west-friendly, democratic Iraq, constituted under the rule of law.
2. The undermining of theocratic dictatorships in the Middle East with a large democratic state in its midst.
3. Cheaper oil supplies, contributing to the undermining of the Saudi economy and the weakening of its backing of international terrorism.
Of course, this is all subject to a successful military campaign. But any success requires resolve and unity.
As for delivering to bin Laden new recruits if there was a war, I repeat:
If the West’s action against Iraq did produce more al-Qaida recruits and recruits to islamic fundamentalism generally, would this make it less of an enemy?
No. As it is, it already constitutes a considerable threat, witness 9/11, the Bali bomb – incidents which have already appeared independent of any threat to Iraq. The threat is not likely to dissipate since we are dealing with fundamentalism here, not a rational ideaology which requires recruits to be persuaded through intellectual argument.
Would more al-Qaida recruits remove the obligation among western governments to defend civil society?
No. In fact it would heighten it.