Charles Krauthammer

These gains are all a direct result of the Iraq War. A spokesman for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told the London Daily Telegraph in September that Gaddafi had telephoned Berlusconi and told him: ``I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.''

The idea that we are not safer because al Qaeda is not yet stopped is absurd. Of course we have terror alerts. We will continue to have them until al Qaeda is extinguished, and you do not eliminate in two years a menace that was granted eight years of unmolested growth and metastasis when Dean's party was in power.

But look at the region whence al Qaeda came. Not only has the Taliban been overthrown, Afghanistan just this week adopted a new constitution agreed to by a loya jirga (grand council) representing every part of this fractured tribal society. It is an astonishing development in a country with so little experience in representative government and ravaged by more than a quarter-century of civil war. And it came about as a result of American force of arms followed by American diplomacy.

Look at Pakistan. On 9/11 it was supporting the Taliban, ignoring al Qaeda and assisting other Islamic extremists. Force majeure by the Bush administration turned Pakistan. The Musharraf government is now a crucial ally in the war on terror.

And now just this week, another astonishing development: a summit between India and Pakistan leading to negotiations that, the joint communique said, ``will'' solve all outstanding issues, including the half-century-old fight over Kashmir. Both Pakistani and Indian observers agree that intense behind-the-scenes mediation by the Bush administration was instrumental in bringing about the rapprochement.

From Libya to India, ice is breaking and the region is changing. In this part of the world, there is no guarantee of success. But if this is not progress -- remarkable, unexpected and hugely significant -- then nothing is.

Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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