Now, it is doubtlessly true that our invasion of Iraq (and Afghanistan) helped al-Qaida's recruitment. I have been told that by U.S. government experts I trust. But that is an old fact. What Osama bin Laden famously said about recruitment is also true: People follow the strong horse. And the new fact is that as we are winning in Iraq, as we are killing al-Qaida fighters and other Islamist terrorists there by the truckload (along with other insurgent opponents of the Iraqi government we support with our blood and wealth), we are proving to be the strong horse after all and can expect to see a reduced attraction for young men to join the Islamist terrorist ranks.
Fighting and winning always impress. Even merely fighting and persisting impress. Shortly after the fall of Soviet Communism, I had dinner with a then-recently former senior Red army general. He told me that the Soviets were astounded and impressed by the fact that we were prepared to fight and lose 50,000 men in Vietnam, when the Soviets never thought we even had a strategic interest there. They thus calculated that they'd better be careful with the United States. What might we do, they thought, if our interests really were threatened?
The full effects of the vigorous martial response of President Bush to the attacks of Sept. 11 will not be known for decades. But if history is any indicator, military courage, persistence and a capacity to kill the enemy in large numbers usually work to the benefit of such nations.
On Sept. 10, 2001, many Islamists thought America and the West were decadent, cowardly and ripe for the pickings. (Hitler thought the same thing about us.) On the basis of President Bush's political courage -- and supremely on the physical courage, moral strength and heartbreaking sacrifice of all our fighting uniformed men and women (and un-uniformed intelligence operatives) -- America's willingness and capacity to fight to protect ourselves cannot be doubted around the world. This may prove to be the most important global political fact of the first decade of the 21st century -- with implications even beyond our struggle with radical Islam.
It is time to reconsider whether President Bush or Barack Obama was right on whether to fight. Obama has had a good political run on the early and inconclusive evidence. As victory starts to emerge in Iraq, more persuasive data begin to fall on President Bush's side of the argument. This is a debate worth having before November.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.