The threat from radical Islamic terrorists will not vanish when President Bush leaves office, or if funds for the Iraq war are cut off in 2008.
A frequent charge is that we are bringing terrorists to Iraq. That is true in the sense that war always brings the enemy out to the battlefield. But it's also false, since it ignores why killers like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (the late al-Qaida chief in Iraq), Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas (Palestinian terrorists of the 1980s), and Abdul Rahman Yasin (involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) were already in Saddam's Iraq when we arrived.
Moreover, the unpopular war in Iraq did not create radical Islamists and their madrassas throughout the Middle East that today brainwash young radicals and pressure the region's monarchies, theocracies and autocracies to provide money for training and weaponry. All that radicalism had been going on for decades — as we saw during the quarter-century of terrorism that led up to 9/11. And rioting, assassination and death threats over artistic expression in Europe have nothing to do with Iraq.
Right now, most al-Qaida terrorists are being trained and equipped in the Pakistani wild lands of Waziristan to help the Taliban reclaim Afghanistan and spread jihad worldwide. These killers pay no attention to the fact that our efforts in Afghanistan are widely multilateral. They don't care that our presence there is sanctioned by NATO, or involves the United Nations, or only came as a reaction to 9/11.
These radical Islamists gain strength not because we "took our eye off Afghanistan" by being in Iraq, but because Pakistan's strongman, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, can't or won't do anything about al-Qaida's bases in his country. And neither Bush nor Nancy Pelosi quite knows how to pressure such an unpredictable nuclear military dictatorship.
The Iraq war has certainly sharpened our relationship with Iran, but, of course, it's also not the cause of our tensions with Tehran. For decades, the Iranian government has subsidized Hezbollah, which during the 1980s and 1990s murdered Americans from Saudi Arabia to Beirut. It was not the current Iranian lunatic president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but an earlier more "moderate" president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who remarked, in 2001, that "one bomb is enough to destroy all Israel."
So Iraq is only one recent theater, albeit a controversial one, in an ongoing global struggle. This larger conflict arose not from the Iraqi invasion of 2003, but from earlier radical Muslim rage at the modern globalized world, the profits and dislocations from Middle East oil, and Islamic terrorism that ranges worldwide from Afghanistan to Thailand.