Maggie Gallagher

But even if it's a just war, is it the war that needs to be fought just now? Al Gore, among other critics, charges that war with Iraq will distract us from the larger war against terrorism. "To the contrary," said President Bush, "confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror."

Last September President Bush warned the nations of the world: No more playing footsie with international terrorists. "Those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves." But Iraq continues to harbor terrorists. We do not know how great or deep the cooperation is, but the failure of Iraq to arrest and turn over al-Qaida members within its borders speaks for itself.

Skeptics dismiss the idea of cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida, saying bin Laden's troops despise the secular Iraqi regime. Skeptics miss the point. At some point in the last decade, international Islamicists began to cut deals with various Arab and Muslim nation-states: tacit support from governments in exchange for directing violence outward, toward Israel, Europe and now America.

Interrupting this kind of tacit state support for terrorism, which often leaves little or no fingerprints, requires a change in the balance of power in the minds of dictators across the Middle East. They have to decide that it is in their own corrupt, dictatorial self-interest to stay far away from Islamicist terror, that it is better to anger al-Qaida than the United States of America.

But with victory comes hope, not only for America but for the tortured, abandoned people of Iraq, according to Bush: "People everywhere prefer freedom to slavery, prosperity to squalor, self-government to the rule of terror and torture."

As another great American once said, "Gentlemen may cry peace! Peace! But there is no peace. The war is actually begun." That was Patrick Henry, speaking of war with Great Britain. But right now only Iraq is fighting.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.