It's probably a bit risky to declare this amidst an "orange alert," but I think the events of December signal that it's time to declare President Bush's foreign policy a huge success.
Note: I didn't say it's an "unmitigated" success. We haven't found Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The reconstruction of Iraq is incomplete and could go south again. American troops are still dying. North Korea hasn't abandoned its nuke program yet. The Middle East "Road Map" is a still a road to nowhere. And Osama bin Laden is still at large - unless Madeleine Albright is right and he's actually being held in the same warehouse where the U.S. government hid the Ark of the Covenant at the end of the first "Indiana Jones" movie.
But then again, there never have been unmitigated successes in foreign policy. "Mitigation" - i.e. downsides - is inevitable with any foreign policy. The Cold War, for example, averted global nuclear war, but it consigned millions to live under despotic regimes for generations and cost taxpayers trillions. And, lest we forget, failure to go to war in Iraq would have had big downsides too.
Regardless, consider just some of the developments this month:
- On Dec. 7, the Saudi Arabian government declared that it would revoke diplomatic visas for Islamic "religious" officials teaching, i.e. recruiting, in the United States and worldwide. Previously, Wahhabi clerics had been allowed to proselytize their extremist brand of Islam under the cover of "diplomatic duties." In reality, many allege, they were fomenting a fanatical anti-Western form of Islam in much the same way Soviet KGB agents worked under the guise of "diplomatic" functions.
- On Dec. 12, U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein alive. The next day the whole world saw him deloused and demystified on TV. The significance of Saddam's capture has been thoroughly hashed out by now, and only Baathists, grumps, fools and Dean supporters think it is anything but an untrammeled victory for the forces of truth, justice and the American way. In the wake of Saddam's capture, lethal attacks on Coalition troops have decreased dramatically and hundreds of high-ranking resistance members have been scooped up.
- On Dec. 19, Syria intercepted couriers for al-Qaida carrying some $23 million.
- Later that day, the leaders of the United States and Great Britain announced that Libya will voluntarily abandon its unconventional weapons programs, including a nuclear program that was far more advanced than intelligence agencies had thought (admittedly, the clairvoyance of intelligence agencies is not universally admired these days).