David Strom

Much has been made in recent days about the supposed conclusion of the latest National Intelligence Estimate that the war in Iraq has inflamed Islamic terrorists.

The New York Times “broke” the story last week with a headline that screamed "Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat." The NIE in question, completed last April, was intended to present the consensus of the Intelligence agencies of the US government on where things stand in the global war on terror.

The Times’ story, long on conjecture and innuendo, and short on facts, purported to show that Bush’s strategy of fighting terrorists had backfired. Striking at the terrorists in Afghanistan and particularly in Iraq had not weakened the Islamic terror movement, but in fact strengthened and broadened it.

Any resemblance to Democrat talking points was of course purely coincidental.

For obvious reasons, the Bush Administration has refused to release the entire NIE, lest it give away too much of our intelligence capabilities or our ongoing strategies in the war, but it did direct that a 4 page summary of the conclusions be released to combat the political firestorm that the Times’ story ignited.

And what did the NIE actually say? Not surprisingly, it little resembles the distorted view leaked to the New York Times by an anti-Bush insider.

In fact, it says exactly what you would expect it to say: that Al Qaeda has been badly damaged and largely dispersed by US actions; that Iraq is the most important front in the war on terror; that Islamic radicals are using the Iraq war as a rallying point for recruitment and as a tool to incite anger in the Islamic world; that terrorists are adapting to the changed environment in recent years, including becoming more dispersed and harder to locate; and that the most important cause of anger in the Middle East is the continued repressive nature of most of the governments there.

In other words, what an objective observer would conclude is that the most vital objective for winning the war on terror is to win the ongoing war in Iraq, and to push for greater democratization in the Islamic world in general.

That’s a far cry from what we are hearing from the left.

Instead, we hear now more than ever that the NIE is proof positive that we should withdraw from Iraq, and by implication abandon the project of moving these autocracies toward democracy over the coming years.

Here is one of the conclusions of the NIE: “Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit.”

David Strom

David Strom is the President of the Minnesota Free Market Institute. He hosts a weekly radio show on AM-1280 "The Patriot" in Minneapolis-St. Paul, available on podcast at Townhall.com.

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