Woolsey says that the US needs to take a good hard look at the possible connection -- and he throws in a possible connection to Iran as well.
He's a true believer in the thesis and often references the wacky theories of Laurie Mylroie.
International relations theorists often admit they don't have much to say about terrorism because they study state-to-state relations and terrorists are not state actors. Here's what the University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer had to say back in 2002:
what does a Realist theory of international politics have to say about terrorists? The answer is not a whole heck of a lot. Realism, as I said before, is really all about the relations among states, especially among great powers. In fact, al Qaeda is not a state, it's a non-state actor, which is sometimes called a transnational actor. My theory and virtually all Realist theories don't have much to say about transnational actors. However, there is no question that terrorism is a phenomenon that will play itself out in the context of the international system. So it will be played out in the state arena, and, therefore, all of the Realist logic about state behavior will have a significant effect on how the war on terrorism is fought. So Realism and terrorism are inextricably linked, although I do think that Realism does not have much to say about the causes of terrorism.Of course, Mearsheimer became a major public critic of the move against Iraq.
Now, the final issue that you raised is the question of what I think of about how the Bush administration is waging the war on terrorism. My basic view, which may sound somewhat odd coming from a Realist, is that the Bush administration's policy is wrong-headed because it places too much emphasis on using military force to deal with the problem, and not enough emphasis on diplomacy. I think that if we hope to win the war on terrorism, or to put it in more modest terms, to ameliorate the problem, what we have to do is win hearts and minds in the Arab and Islamic world.
There's no doubt that there are huge numbers of people in that world who hate the United States, and a significant percentage of those people are willing to either sacrifice themselves as suicide bombers or support suicide bombing attacks against the United States. What we have to do is we have to ameliorate that hatred, and we have to go to great lengths to win hearts and minds. I don't believe that you can do that with military force. I think some military force is justified. If you could convince me that Osama bin Laden and his fellow leaders are located in a particular set of caves in Afghanistan at this point in time, I would be perfectly willing to use massive military force to get at those targets and to kill all of the al Qaeda leadership. But I think, in general, what the United States wants to do is not rely too heavily on military force -- in part, because the target doesn't lend itself to military attack, but more importantly, because using military force in the Arab and Islamic world is just going to generate more resentment against us and cause the rise of more terrorists and give people cause to support these terrorists. So I'd privilege diplomacy much more than military force in this war, and I think the Bush administration would be wise if it moved more towards diplomacy and less towards force.
Mearsheimer's colleague, Dan Drezner, blogged today that rational Bush supporters know that the Iraq war was about regional transformation so as dry terrorism up at its source.
As someone who recently had public engagements with neocons Tom Donnelly and Robert Kagan , I think this is genuine.
Ultimately, the Bush people were marketing a war based on the security arguments that would sell, but apparently had a far more radical counter-terror plan that they didn't think would sell.
This explains why Bush administration people keep pointing out that a bad man has been deposed and that the Iraq people are "free" (from Saddam's rule, presumably, because they now live under military occupation).
Democratization of Iraq is their "big picture" counter-terror policy and war critics need to take it very seriously.
This means, of course, that the significant distortions about traditional security threats emanating from Iraq prevented the real debate from occurring before the war. Opponents, whether John Mearsheimer or street marchers, were focused on the lack of evidence about nuclear threats and the weakness of Iraq after 12 years of sanctions.
The real debate remains, involving significant questions:
Can a nation like Iraq be democratized by toppling a despotic regime and "building" a new nation from the rubble?
Was military force the best way to do this?
-- Did the attack set a dangerous precedent and potentially legitimize similar uses of violence by other states that will make the world a much less safe place?
-- Will the use of military force without wide international support create so much backlash throughout the Islamic world that the forces of terror are substantially strengthened by this move?
How long will it take to democratize Iraq?
Can a democratic Iraq trigger a democratic domino effect throughout the region?
Why begin with Iraq? What if the US had put strong (non-violent) public pressure on other states -- like Saudi Arabia? Or Egypt?
I know other bloggers have addressed some of these concerns, but in the coming weeks I'll try to address them too.