Peace through victory - the American way.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Bogged down in a land war in Asia.

Since the run up to the war in Iraq opponents of the liberation have compared U.S involvement there with the Vietnam war. One of the arguments is that we are bogged down in a senseless land war in Iraq just as we were in Vietnam. Somebody is bogged down in Iraq but it's not the United States.

September 11, 2001, marked the day when America awakened to the Islamist threat that had been building since the Iranian Revolution. Since that day the United States has embarked on two wars on the Asian continent. In each instance, the United States and its allies defeated a terrorist sponsoring government and ushered in new democratically elected governments allied to the U.S.

The guerilla war in Iraq demonstrates that the victory there is not complete. Islamists from throughout the Muslim world have gone to Iraq to fight against the United States and its Iraqi and foreign allies there.

But the significant fact is not that Islamists continue to fight in Iraq. The significant fact is that since 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the Islamists have not done a single successful terrorist attack of any magnitude on the United States mainland.

Instead, all that Al Qaeda has mustered against the homeland is a videotaped statement by bin Laden released just before the U.S. election, in which he threatened Americans if they voted for a president who would continue the war.

In 2003, just before the Iraqi liberation bin Laden began to focus his attention on Iraq with a call for jihad against the "crusaders" there. Last year, Islamist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi openly declared his allegiance to bin Laden and at the end of the year, bin Laden named Zarqawi his emir in Iraq. This should not surprise as the two men share Salafist beliefs and opposition to the United States and its allies. Indeed, even before the Iraqi liberation Zarqawi was linked to Al Qaeda. Despite Saddam's supposed opposition to Islamists, Zarqawi was given refuge by Iraq before the liberation and while there he planned the assassination in Jordan of U.S. diplomat Lawrence Foley in 2002.

So for the past two years Iraq has been the dominant battlefield for Islamists against the United States. What do they have to show for their efforts? First, they opposed Iraq's liberation and failed. Then they tried to start a civil war between Sunni and Shiite Arabs in Iraq and failed. Then they called on a boycott of Iraq's elections, which happened in large measure among Sunni Arabs, but which has subsequently begun to fail as Sunni groups who boycotted the election have had second thoughts about sitting out the election. In the wider arena, they declared jihad on democracy and witnessed a successful election in Iraq, free elections in Palestine, limited local elections in Saudi Arabia, and Lebanese pro-democracy demonstrators toppling their government in the run up to elections in May. Are we seeing a trend here?

Nothing is certain in war and assessing victory or failure is difficult while the fighting continues. As Georges Clemenceau famously said, "War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory." Notice how he doesn't say for whom the victory results. Still the strategic trend is looking better for the U.S. than it is for the Islamists.

And now according to this Associated Press story bin Laden "is enlisting ... Zarqawi ... to plan potential attacks on the United States." How bin Laden and Zarqawi will do this without a secure base of operations remains to be seen. But this is evidence that bin Laden is awakening to the realization that he has stumbled into a bog in Iraq.




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