IN THE MONTHS leading up to the War on Iraq, a convenient dodge for waffling Democrats who opposed the war but feared looking weak on national security was to fret about the Bush Doctrine’s impact on the War on Terror. In theory, they said, they had nothing against deposing Saddam Hussein, but to do so now would take precious national resources away from the fight against terrorism.
It’s now time to add that claim to the ever-mounting heap of discredited left-wing lies, misconceptions, and myths.
Despite the Bush Administration’s planning, mobilizing, and setting the diplomatic stage for Operation Iraqi Freedom throughout much of 2002, the broader War on Terror continued apace, and with great success. According to the U.S. State Department’s recently released Patterns of Global Terrorism—2002, there were, world over, 199 terrorist attacks last year, the lowest amount in more than 30 years—a 44 percent decline from 2001.
Of those 199 attacks, 77 were directed against Americans, a 65 percent decrease from the 219 attacks in 2001. Of course, that drop is due primarily to a decrease in oil pipeline bombings in Colombia (41 in 2002, as opposed to 178 in 2001), but even when one excludes the Columbian data, anti-American attacks fell from 41 to 36 in one year—a 13 percent decrease.
Add that to President George W. Bush’s boast in his speech aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln that "nearly one-half of al-Qaeda’s senior operatives have been captured or killed," and a nation too "distracted" to deal with the terrorist threat appears to be dealing with it quite handily.
So much for the claim that effecting a regime change in Iraq is somehow incompatible with the goals of the War on Terror. Far from it, as I’ve observed in this space, and as Bush noted in his Lincoln address, Iraq was but a phase of the broader campaign against the Islamofascist enterprise, of which al-Qaeda is only one component. That campaign won’t end with the confirmed death or capture of Hussein or Osama bin Baden (welcome though those events would be), but with the reform or toppling of every group and state that makes up that enterprise.
So much, also, for one of the other popular myths commonly used to rationalize appeasement: Invading Iraq would jeopardize the vital support of U.S. allies in other anti-terrorist endeavors. If anything, America’s resolve and show of force has made allies in countries like Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates all the more cooperative.
And so much for the old fear that war would whip the "Arab Street" into an even greater anti-American fury. Every day another new news story reminds the world how much better off ordinary Iraqis are now than they were before the liberation. The effect is to send dual messages to the Arab world: You have nothing to gain from submitting to the Islamofascist order, and much to gain by resisting it.
More importantly, the liberation of Iraq has made the American military bases in Saudi Arabia—there to protect against an invasion from Saddam Hussein’s army—obsolete, thus enabling the U.S. to safely remove its forces, whose presence in Muslim holy lands had been one of the chief causes of anti-American sentiment.
All of which suggests that the War on Terror seems to be going every bit as well, although not as spectacularly, as its component war Iraq. The Bush Doctrine, for all its prominent left-wing detractors, is bearing fruit, most notably in the form of attacks thwarted. Meanwhile, the world need no longer worry that Hussein might dole out weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, offer any more terrorists safe haven, or continue sending bonus checks to the families of Palestinian terror-bombers.
But the War on Terror necessarily continues. The State Department has provided a list of the countries still supporting terrorism—Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria—as well as active terrorist organizations. Then there are countries that, for diplomatic reasons, don’t make the list (read: Saudi Arabia), but who are also being nudged, prodded, and coerced into joining the ranks of the civilized world.
As 9-11 made painfully clear, 1,000 terrorist attacks averted are easily eclipsed by just one that succeeds, especially one involving weapons of mass destruction.
Thus the need for continued vigilance in the fight against Islamofascism internationally and appeasement at home. Because if the War on Terror requires the use of American force again, the same lies and fears will return. Americans will hear the same criticisms and doubts from the same crowd that warned of quagmire in Afghanistan, prematurely declared defeat in Iraq, and still maintains that the best way for the U.S. to wage the War on Terror is to surrender to its enemies.
Those who said that the War on Terror and the War on Iraq were incompatible were never really interested in winning either. Their past advice now thoroughly discredited, their future advice is now best ignored.