But Spain and Australia -- Britain, with Tony Blair up for re-election next year, will surely be next -- are merely supporting actors. The real prize is America. An electoral repudiation of President Bush would be seen by the world as a repudiation of Bush's foreign policy, specifically his aggressive, pre-emptive and often unilateral prosecution of the war on terror, most especially Iraq. It would be a correct interpretation because John Kerry has made clear that he is fighting this election on precisely those grounds.
Does this mean that the bad guys want Kerry to win? Michael Kinsley with his usual drollery ridicules the idea by conjuring up the image of bin Laden ``as he sits in his cave studying materials from the League of Women Voters'' deciding to cast his absentee ballot for the Democrats.
The point, of course, is that the terrorists have no particular interest in Kerry. What they care about is Bush. He could be running against a moose, and Osama and Zarqawi would be for the moose.
How to elect the moose? A second direct attack on the United States would backfire. As 9/11 showed, attacking the American homeland would cause a rallying around the president, whoever he is. America is not Spain. Such an attack would probably result in a Bush landslide.
It is still prudent to be on high alert at home, because it is not wise to bank on the political sophistication of the enemy. The enemy is nonetheless far more likely to understand that the way to bring down Bush is not by attack at home but by debilitating guerrilla war abroad, namely in Iraq. Hence the escalation of bloodshed by Zarqawi and Co. It is not just aimed at intimidating Iraqis and preventing the Iraqi election. It is aimed at demoralizing Americans and affecting the American election.
The Islamists and Baathists in Iraq are conducting their own Tet Offensive with the same objective as the one in 1968: to demoralize the American citizenry, convince it that the war cannot be won, and ultimately encourage it to reject the administration that brought the war upon them and that is the more unequivocal about seeing it through.
It is perfectly true, as Bush critics constantly point out, that many millions around the world -- from Jacques Chirac to the Arab street -- dislike Bush and want to see him defeated. It is ridiculous to pretend that Osama, Zarqawi and the other barbarians are not among them.
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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