Posted by ssbg on May 23, 2006
By RALPH PETERS
May 23, 2006 — WITH the formation of Iraq's new government, it's a good time to take stock of where we stand in our confrontation with Islamist terror. You wouldn't know it from the outrageously dishonest headlines, but we're winning. We could do even better, if we put national security above partisan politics.
Our enemies are far from giving up, of course. But they realize now that Americans won't quit after suffering the first dozen casualties. That came as a shock after the cowardice of past presidential administrations.
Our enemies can still grab the tactical initiative by killing the innocent, but terrorists around the world have been shoved onto the strategic defensive. We tend to overlook that. So let's consider just how far we've come:
* The mainstream media said it couldn't be done, so the Iraqis did it: Under new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, they formed a permanent government based on free elections. (Those free elections were supposed to be impossible, too – remember?)
Yes, Iraq could still break into bloody bits. But it hasn't, despite ceaseless predictions of doom. Now the great danger isn't from terrorists but from a premature troop draw-down before our midterm elections. We could throw it all away over a few congressional seats.
* Headlines from Afghanistan always read "Five Soldiers Killed and Wounded," not "150 Taliban Killed." If today's journalists reported the Battle of Midway, we'd read "U.S. Aircraft Shot From Skies," with a brief mention of the destruction of the Japanese carrier fleet buried at the bottom.
The Taliban was decisively defeated. That doesn't mean it's gone. The religious madness the Taliban represents will remain at the edges of Afghan life – it's part of the cultural package, just as bigotry haunts the fringes of our society. But Afghanistan's a far less-menacing place than it was. In the real world, that's enough.
* Pakistan's a worsening problem – overshadowed by the less immediate issue of Iran. Taliban remnants and al Qaeda terrorists survive because the Pakistani military is afraid to go into the country's tribal areas to root out them out. Riddled with extremists, nuclear armed and incapable of controlling its own territory, Pakistan should have Washington in crisis mode.
* Al Qaeda has been broken. Yes, its remnants remain deadly. Yes, autonomous terror cells pose a growing threat. But the organization behind 9/11 has seen its surviving leaders driven into caves and remote villages where they live in constant fear. Islamist terror may have moved beyond al Qaeda, but our government and our military deserve credit for shattering the greatest international terror ring in history.
* The United States has taken this war to our enemies and to their homelands – without suffering another terrorist strike on our soil. While that long-awaited strike still seems only a matter of time, the greatest strategic surprise to this columnist has been the inability of our enemies to hit back to date. Kudos to the feds and the folks in uniform. In the Global War on Terror (or whatever it's called this week), the cardinal indicator of success is what doesn't happen.
* A fundamental reason why we've remained safe from further attacks on our homeland has been intelligence successes. While our intel system is far from all it could be, it's not nearly as incompetent as it's portrayed to be.
Poor intel has become an easy excuse for flawed decision-making. We need to be honest with ourselves: No matter how much we improve, we'll never have perfect intelligence. To pretend otherwise is to lie to the American people. Instead of blaming our institutions, leaders in both parties have to lead.
* Domestic politics hurt us in our struggle against terrorists. The phony claim that the government "spies on American citizens" is about party sympathies and the upcoming elections, not about threats to our freedom. To the chagrin of a biased media, a convincing majority of Americans believe it's just fine to listen in on terrorist phone calls.
If journalists really cared about our right to privacy, they'd be tackling online auction houses, corporate information-sharing and Internet spyware – not wartime efforts to prevent another 9/11.
* At least 40 times more Americans will die on our highways this year than will be lost in Iraq. More Americans will be murdered in Prince George's County outside of Washington, D.C., than are likely to die in Afghanistan. We're doing pretty well overseas; our crunch-time strategic problems are here at home: the inexcusable lack of a serious alternative-fuels policy; the need to face our immigration crisis with honesty, decency and respect for the rule of law – and, above all, a political system held captive by extremists on the left and right, corrupted by an irresponsible media culture.
Plenty remains to be done. We must see our Iraq mission through to the end – unless the Iraqis fail themselves. We must restore integrity and common sense to our foreign policy by ceasing to pretend that the Saudis are our friends and by living up to our rhetoric about support for democracy. And we need to take a very hard line on China's currency manipulation and cheating on trade.
Still, any fair-minded review of the last several years of American engagement abroad would conclude that, despite painful mistakes, we've changed the world for the better. The results have been imperfect, as such results always will be. But the bewildering sense of gloom and doom fostered my many in the media is as unjustified as it is corrosive.
Our global report card right now? A for effort. B for results. C for consistency. D for media integrity. And F for domestic political responsibility.
Ralph Peters' next book, "Never Quit the Fight," hits the stores in July.