WASHINGTON -- It's time we took stock of things to see how we're doing -- if only to reply to the grouches among us who have been Bah-Humbugging just about everything this year. America has had more than its usual share of problems and challenges at home and abroad this year: the war on terrorism, Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the Gulf Coast hurricanes, persistent doubts about the economy and job layoffs among troubled businesses. But we are facing them, debating them, dealing with them and in the end will overcome them, as we always do. Certainly the world has many political, social and economic troubles of its own, from the Middle East to China, and the natural catastrophes that have struck millions of people. But there are inspiring developments and sweeping political currents across the globe, too, that give us reason for hope in this season of peace, good will and rebirth.
Here's why I think there is every reason to believe that our future will be a lot brighter in the year to come:
TERRORISM: It will be with us for a long time to come, but we've taken prudent security precautions and military/intelligence offensive actions to uncover, prevent and defeat it where we can. There is no doubt that since the devastating attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, we have made huge strides, offensively and defensively, to protect our homeland and way of life.
Of course, we're not fully safe, but we are certainly safer in this age of terrorism than we ever were before and we will no doubt be safer in years to come as we improve the programmatic and technological security tools that have been and will be deployed.
THE WAR IN IRAQ: If anyone had predicted five years ago that the United States would be successfully planting the seeds of two democratic countries right in the heart of the Middle East's terrorist breeding grounds, it would have been greeted by disbelief and ridicule.
In fact, that has been the response from the pundits, critics and armchair analysts ever since Bush launched the military offensives to topple terrorist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
They offered a seemingly endless list of reasons why his democracy-building plan wouldn't succeed and few if any reason why it would.
But last week's national elections in Iraq to choose a free, independent democratic government provide that the cynics and pessimists here and elsewhere were not only wrong but spectacularly so.
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