Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Are we going soft on Terrorism?

Michael Ledeen has a provocative essay today arguing that the Bush administration, after impressive victories in Afghanistan and Iraq and the effects of the two on Libya, Lebanon and lesser extent, Egypt, has gone a bit soft on the Global War on Terrorism.

It is good that the desire for freedom is now manifest among the oppressed peoples of the Middle East and Central Asia, and it is very good that dramatic strides toward self-government have been taken by the Georgians, Kyrgistanis, Ukrainians, Iraqis, and Lebanese. But it is not good enough. Indeed, it is shameful that we have yet to seriously challenge the legitimacy of the terror masters in Tehran and Damascus, who represent the keystone of the terrorist edifice.

Our enemies know this, because, to their delight and perhaps their surprise as well, they are still in power throughout the Middle East. Until and unless they are removed, the terror war will continue, our friends in the region will be killed, tortured, and incarcerated, and the president’s vision of regional democratic revolution will go down the memory hole. He is at yet another great turning point, and, as after the fall of Afghanistan and again after the defenestration of Saddam’s Baghdad, he is drifting, perhaps hoping that he has risked enough, that history is firmly on his side, and even — although it is hard to imagine — that the Europeans are helping the spread of freedom.
Freedom is our greatest weapon against the terrorists, and we do not always need to send armies to support its spread. Syria and Iran are ripe for revolution, and the dictators know it. The revolutionaries are looking to Washington for clear and material support. They are not getting it today. Twice in the past, the president slid into a similar funk, first permitting himself to be gulled by the Saudis into believing he had to make a deal with Arafat before he was entitled to liberate Iraq, then permitting the British to drag out the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom with endless votes in the Security Council. Each time he realized his error, and pressed on with greater vigor. It’s time for him to do that again.

If not now, when?

The temptation to rest on existing accomplishment is easy; a lot has been accomplished, much, much more than anyone would have imagined. Even the feckless Europeans seem to be muttering that maybe Bush had got it right. Then there are concerns that the Coalition of the Willing is almost certainly smaller today than in March 2003 and the fact that we may be a bit stretched. Truth be told though is that a better moment to push the likes of Tehran and Damascus may not come again for some time and an occupant of the White House with the courage to do it may be rarer still.

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