Of course the war in Iraq has made us less safe, and I didn't need the National Intelligence Estimate to tell me so. Who could possibly deny that Iraq has become, in the words of the NIE, a "cause celebre" for jihadists? One need only read the newspaper to conclude that Iraq is spawning more terrorists. (Indeed, one fears that all the NIE authors did was clip from the newspapers.)
If you've ever stood up to a bully, you know how this works. Confrontation tends to increase the chances of violence in the short term but decreases its likelihood in the long term. Any hunter will tell you that the most dangerous moment is when you've cornered an animal, and any cop will tell you that standing up to muggers puts you in danger. American colonists were less safe for standing up to King George III, and the United States was certainly safer in the short term when we stood on the sidelines while Germany was conquering Europe. Heck, we would have been safer in the short run if we'd responded to Pearl Harbor by telling the Japanese they could have the Pacific to themselves.
After 9/11, there were voices on the left warning that an attack on Afghanistan would only perpetuate the dreaded "cycle of violence." Today, Democrats tout their support of that "good" war as proof they aren't soft on terrorism. Fair enough, I suppose. But guess what? That war made us less safe too - if the measure of such things is "creating more terrorists." A Gallup poll taken in nine Muslim nations in February 2002 found that more than three-fourths of respondents considered the liberation of Afghanistan unjustifiable. A mere 9 percent supported U.S. actions. That goes for famously moderate Turkey, where opposition to the U.S. ran three to one, and in Pakistan, where a mere one in 20 respondents took the American side. In other words, before Iraq became the cause celebre of jihadists, Afghanistan was. Does that mean we shouldn't have toppled the Taliban?
Going back further, it's conventional wisdom that we helped "create" Osama bin Laden, or his Taliban and mujahedin comrades, when we supported the Afghan resistance to the Soviet Union. So we shouldn't have done that either?