Cliff May

To those who see the world through a partisan prism, last week’s congressional vote to continue funding American troops in Iraq looks like a loss for Democrats. On the contrary: Those Democrats who refused to legislate an American military defeat -- despite intense pressure from a well-financed, well-organized campaign on the left -- deserve great credit.

No serious person doubts that America is at war with Islamist movements that seek the West’s destruction. Among those movements, none is more threatening than al-Qaeda. And al-Qaeda’s most active and lethal combatants are in Iraq.

Recently, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second in command, sent a letter to Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, the leader of Al Qaeda forces in Iraq. In it, Zawahiri reassures Muhajer that a great and historic victory is close at hand, that soon America will be driven out of Iraq. Among the tactics that both Zawahiri and Muhajer believe are proving effective: murdering innocent women and children to fuel sectarian strife.

Let’s stipulate that had President Bush not toppled Saddam Hussein, most of these al-Qaeda terrorists would not be in Iraq, they would be somewhere else. The fact remains: They are in Iraq now. They are there because they regard Iraq – an oil rich capital of the Arab world -- as the most important theater in what they say is a global power struggle.

They believe they are eroding our will to fight them in Iraq. And perhaps they are. But if they can achieve that goal in Iraq, is there any reason to think they won’t be able to achieve it in other parts of the world as well?

Iran’s rulers also are America’s enemies. After nearly 30 years it should be obvious that “Death to America!” is not just a catchy slogan: It is a long-term goal. And it is a goal toward which they believe they are progressing because we have done nothing over the past three decades to shake their confidence – not when they seized our embassy and took our diplomats hostage, not when they assigned Hezbollah to slaughter our Marines in Beirut, not when they killed our soldiers at Khobar Towers.

And as they move toward acquiring nuclear weapons, aid and abet those killing our troops in Iraq, and take visiting American scholars hostage, we do next to nothing. To them, it looks like the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of the Iranian Islamist revolution, was spot on when he stated: “America cannot do a damn thing.”

The history of warfare is marked by innovations: the saddle and stirrup, the long bow, gunpowder, the cannon, mechanized cavalry, aircraft and missiles among them.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.