A MAJOR VICTORY

Mar 3 2003 @ 1:12am

The capture of KSM is big news. In fact, it’s surely the biggest news in the war on terror in months. The nabbing followed previous arrests and interrogations, all of which have clearly helped stymie and disorient al Qaeda. In terms of the broader debate about the war, one conclusion is obvious. It’s time to retire the frayed notion that somehow we cannot go to war against Saddam and al Qaeda at the same time. In fact, it would be hard to think of a more perfect refutation. Could the administration be more preoccupied with Iraq than it is today? It’s a little hopeful to think that this phony argument against waging war on more than one front will now be retired. But it is useful to remember that, as an argument, it was never based on any actual assessment of how the government works. It was an argument entirely designed to make the Democrats look tough on terror while they were counseling appeasement of Saddam. It was a pretty obvious ploy at the time. Now it’s transparent. I’m glad we’ve finally cleared it up.

THE TURKS: One day, someone will write a real account of what has actually been going on in Turkey’s ruling elite and parliament these past few weeks. You have a brand new government, run by a party that has never been in power before in the country’s history. You have an effective leader, Tayyip Erdogan, who, because he doesn’t have a parliamentary seat, isn’t the actual prime minister (but may be very soon). You have the possibility that some pro-American deputies might have voted against the U.S. troops purely to discredit the new Islamic-party government, in the hopes of bringing the government down, and then bringing the troops in under new auspices. Then you have the economic legacy of the last Gulf war – and the latest shenanigans from Baghdad – having an impact on public opinion. Who knows what’s next? But if the government is planning on a second vote, as they seem to be, they’d be suicidal if they thought they didn’t have it in the bag. Two lost parliamentary votes could precipitate a collapse in the government. So my fearless prediction is that US troops could be in Turkey by the end of this week, or there will be a government crisis in that country. I have mixed feelings about this – not least because one key test of the Bush administration’s plans for a post-Saddam Iraq will be how the semi-democratic Kurdish enclave in the north of Iraq survives and prospers. And somehow I think the Turks will be a little nervous about that. Cooperation with Washington now means greater leverage over the Kurds later. Uh-oh.