The Taliban have come back. The Pakistanis have ceded them sanctuary. Some NATO nations are refusing to risk troops in combat. And it has been some time since guerrillas who enjoyed a privileged sanctuary in that part of the world failed to expel European soldiers perceived as imperial occupiers.
Islamists control Somalia. Anti-Americanism is rampant in Lebanon -- after Condi Rice blocked a U.N. ceasefire resolution to stop Israel's bombing last summer in what was supposed to be a campaign to clear Hezbollah from her northern border. The Beirut government could fall at any moment or be forced into a coalition with Hezbollah.
Even Bush's defense secretary concedes we are not winning in Iraq. It may take a "surge" of 20,000 to 40,000 troops to stave off defeat before the end of Bush's term. On the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas and Fatah appear on the brink of civil war. The elections Bush demanded produced dramatic gains for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq.
Eighteen months ago, Ahmadinejad was the unknown mayor of Tehran. Today, he is the visible face of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, both a cause of and the personification of our failures. He has defied Bush's demand that he give up the enrichment of uranium, split the Security Council, mocked the Holocaust, called for the end of the Zionist state and the expulsion of America from the Mideast, terrified the Sunni monarchs, and united the Arab and Islamic masses behind his defiance.
His trip to the United Nations, where he ran circles around U.S. journalists, was a diplomatic triumph. And he has done it all not with military power -- Iran would not last a week in an all-out war with the United States and has no defense against Israel's nuclear weapons -- but with theatrics and rhetoric.
He inspires all who hate Israel and Bush's America. And, according to the Zogby polling today, that is a majority which, in some once-friendly nations, is approaching near unanimity.
Ahmadinejad, a man of words without real power, is the big winner of 2006, because Bush, America and Israel were the big losers.
Why do a billion Muslims prefer Ahmadinejad to America? That is the question that needs to be addressed.