... the evidence is now overwhelming that on all fronts, despite
inevitable losses from time to time, it is we who are advancing and the enemy
who is in retreat. The current mood on both sides of the Atlantic, in fact,
represents a kind of curious inversion of the great French soldier's dictum:
“Success against the Taleban. Enemy giving way in Iraq. Al-Qaeda on the run.
Situation dire. Let's retreat!”
Since it is remarkable how pervasive this pessimism is, it's worth
recapping what has been achieved in the past few years.
Afghanistan has been a signal success. There has been much focus on the
latest counter-offensive by the Taleban in the southeast of the country and it
would be churlish to minimise the ferocity with which the terrorists are
fighting, but it would be much more foolish to understate the scale of the
continuing Nato achievement. Establishing a stable government for the whole
nation is painstaking work, years in the making. It might never be completed.
But that was not the principal objective of the war there.
Until the US-led invasion in 2001, Afghanistan was the cockpit of
ascendant Islamist terrorism. Consider the bigger picture. Between 1998 and 2005
there were five big terrorist attacks against Western targets - the bombings of
the US embassies in Africa in 1998, the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, 9/11,
and the Madrid and London bombings in 2004 and 2005. All owed their success
either exclusively or largely to Afghanistan's status as a training and planning
base for al-Qaeda.
In the past three years there has been no attack on anything like
that scale. Al-Qaeda has been driven into a state of permanent flight. Its
ability to train jihadists has been severely compromised; its financial networks
have been ripped apart. Thousands of its activists and enablers have been
killed. It's true that Osama bin Laden's forces have been regrouping in the
border areas of Pakistan but their ability to orchestrate mass terrorism there
is severely attenuated. And there are encouraging signs that Pakistanis are
starting to take to the offensive against them.
The second great advance in the War on Terror has been in Iraq. There's
no need to recapitulate the disasters of the US-led war from the fall of Saddam
Hussein in April 2003 to his execution at the end of 2006. We may never fully
make up for three and a half lost years of hubris and incompetence but in the
last 18 months the change has been startling.
The “surge”, despite all the doubts and derision at the time, has
been a triumph of US military planning and execution. Political progress was
slower in coming but is now evident too. The Iraqi leadership has shown great
courage and dispatch in extirpating extremists and a growing willingness even to
turn on Shia militias. Basra is more peaceful and safer than it has been since
before the British moved in. Despite setbacks such as yesterday's bombings, the
streets of Iraq's cities are calmer and safer than they have been in years.
Seventy companies have bid for oil contracts from the Iraqi Government. There
are signs of a real political reconciliation that may reach fruition in the
election later this year.
The third and perhaps most significant advance of all in
the War on Terror is the discrediting of the Islamist creed and its appeal.
This was first of all evident in Iraq, where the
head-hacking frenzy of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his associates so alienated the
majority of Muslims that it gave rise to the so-called Sunni Awakening that
enabled the surge to be so effective.
But it has spread way beyond Iraq. As Lawrence Wright described in
an important piece in The New Yorker last month, there is growing
disgust not just among moderate Muslims but even among other jihadists at the
extremism of the terrorists.
Deeply encouraging has been the widespread revulsion in
Muslim communities in Europe - especially in Britain after the 7/7 attacks of
three years ago. Some of the biggest intelligence breakthroughs in the past few
years have been achieved from former al-Qaeda supporters who have turned against
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Cheer Up, We're Winning The War
Oh, and by the way, someone ought to tell Barack Obama.
I believe these things are all true, and they are encouraging.
But, it is a mistake to think the war is defined soley by success in Iraq, Afghanistan, or even homegrown terrorism. Al Qaeda may be a principle enemy, but they are not THE enemy. If Al Qaeda was THE enemy, then it really would matter if we caught Zawahiri and Bin Laden. We would cut the head off the snake, and the snake would die.
But, the truth is, our enemy is Jihad. Every Muslim in this world who believes that it is a good thing to fight for the cause of Allah, to instill Sharia law as the law of the land, every Muslim who believes that there are but two worlds; Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, everyone of these Muslims is our enemy.
And, they don't have to be organized to defeat us. All they have to do is move into our lands, breed, and bide their time.
When there are enough such Muslims living in our midst, there will be little we do to stop them, short of war in our own streets.
There has never been a country anywhere on Earth which has been majority Muslim which has not been marked violence, human rights violations, and lack of learning and creativity.
Those are the fruits of Jihad. Perhaps, I should say, they are the fruits of Islam itself.
That is our enemy. That is who we must defeat.
We are not winning the war ... yet.
But, we will.