Much has been made in recent days about the supposed conclusion of the latest National Intelligence Estimate that the war in Iraq has inflamed Islamic terrorists.
The New York Times “broke” the story last week with a headline that screamed "Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat." The NIE in question, completed last April, was intended to present the consensus of the Intelligence agencies of the US government on where things stand in the global war on terror.
The Times’ story, long on conjecture and innuendo, and short on facts, purported to show that Bush’s strategy of fighting terrorists had backfired. Striking at the terrorists in Afghanistan and particularly in Iraq had not weakened the Islamic terror movement, but in fact strengthened and broadened it.
Any resemblance to Democrat talking points was of course purely coincidental.
For obvious reasons, the Bush Administration has refused to release the entire NIE, lest it give away too much of our intelligence capabilities or our ongoing strategies in the war, but it did direct that a 4 page summary of the conclusions be released to combat the political firestorm that the Times’ story ignited.
And what did the NIE actually say? Not surprisingly, it little resembles the distorted view leaked to the New York Times by an anti-Bush insider.
In fact, it says exactly what you would expect it to say: that Al Qaeda has been badly damaged and largely dispersed by US actions; that Iraq is the most important front in the war on terror; that Islamic radicals are using the Iraq war as a rallying point for recruitment and as a tool to incite anger in the Islamic world; that terrorists are adapting to the changed environment in recent years, including becoming more dispersed and harder to locate; and that the most important cause of anger in the Middle East is the continued repressive nature of most of the governments there.
In other words, what an objective observer would conclude is that the most vital objective for winning the war on terror is to win the ongoing war in Iraq, and to push for greater democratization in the Islamic world in general.
That’s a far cry from what we are hearing from the left.
Instead, we hear now more than ever that the NIE is proof positive that we should withdraw from Iraq, and by implication abandon the project of moving these autocracies toward democracy over the coming years.
Here is one of the conclusions of the NIE: “Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit.”
Further, “The Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.”
In other words, the single best strategy for beating back Islamic terrorism is to do precisely what Bush is doing: keep fighting in Iraq and push for greater democracy throughout the Islamic world.
Simply put, the New York Times, the left, and the Democrats are wrong. Winning in Iraq and winning the war on terror are now almost inseparable. Victory in Iraq, coupled with increased democratization there and throughout the Middle East, is the only clear path to victory in the war on terror.
The left is so wrong because they fail to understand this basic fact: radical Muslims don’t hate America because of what we do; they hate us because of who we are. Retreating from Iraq, abandoning Israel, or any other form of appeasement you can imagine will only make the problem worse. It would further the impression that God is on the side of the terrorists and that they are winning.
The true war is between American-style pluralism and a warped concept of Sharia law. As long as a pluralistic and prosperous America exists, Islamists will see us as a threat. It is the cultural magnetism we exert on young people throughout the world that they truly fear. It is cultural domination, not military domination that they are fighting.
Hence, the only conquest that will truly matter in this war will be a victory of pluralism over Islamic totalitarianism.
Bush understands that, and is fighting this war where it needs to be fought: defeating terrorists through the exporting of democracy to the heart of the Islamic world, in Iraq.
And the April National Intelligence Estimate makes that perfectly clear. That is, to anyone who actually read it.