WASHINGTON -- Where are we? At this midpoint of the Bush administration, engaged as we are in conflict throughout the world, are we winning?
The great democratic crusade undertaken by this administration is going far better than most observers will admit. That's the good news. The bad news is a development more troubling than most observers recognize: signs of the emergence, for the first time since the fall of the Soviet empire, of an anti-American bloc anchored by Great Powers.
First, the good news. The great project of the Bush administration -- the strengthening and spread of democracy -- is enjoying considerable success. Most recently we witnessed the triumph of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which followed the Rose Revolution in Georgia, bringing historic breaks from authoritarianism in two key former Soviet republics. Less publicized were elections in two critical Muslim states -- Indonesia and Malaysia -- in which Islamic parties were decisively defeated.
Elsewhere in the Islamic world, we saw (though many downplayed) the Afghan miracle -- free and successful elections in perhaps the world's least hospitable soil for democracy. That was followed by Palestinian elections and the beginning of political reform. Even more encouraging was a public statement issued just weeks earlier by more than 500 Palestinian intellectuals demanding democracy, the rule of law, transparency and an end to Arafat-style dictatorial rule.
And now, elections in Iraq, which are obviously problematic, but also very promising. Not only will they establish a precedent for free elections and constitutionalism. They will also effectively transfer power to the heretofore disenfranchised majority of Iraqis -- Shiites and Kurds -- who will then have a real stake in helping the United States defend the new Iraqi order against the Baathist insurgency.
Moreover, the election process and the vicious terrorism unleashed against every element of it have exposed the insurgency as not the nationalist resistance that sympathizers in the West pretend it to be, but as the desperate opposition by dead-enders to both Iraqi democracy and majority rule.
Now, for the bad news. I am not talking here about the obvious, the continued survival of al Qaeda, although it has clearly been diminished over the last three and a half years.
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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