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Friday, May 30, 2008

Al Qaeda Decimated WAPO Reports

The right blogosphere is buzzing today about a new report from the CIA that paints a picture of Al Qaeda, totally decimated, and near total defeat. This is frankly not new. Such reports surface from time to time, and frankly, plenty of reports surface that say much the opposite. What's different about this report is that it is cited in the front page of the Washington Post. Normally, positive news about the GWOT is either not cited at all or buried deep in its pages. This particular report is startling in its upbeat analysis.

On balance, we are doing pretty well," he said, ticking down a list ofaccomplishments: "Near strategic defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaeda globally -- and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically' -- as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam," he said.

The sense of shifting tides in the terrorism fight is shared by a number of terrorism experts, though some caution that it is too early to tell whether the gains are permanent. Some credit Hayden and other U.S. intelligence leaders for going on the offensive against al-Qaeda in the area along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where the tempo of Predator strikes has dramatically increased from previous years. But analysts say the United States has caught some breaks in the past year, benefiting from improved conditions in Iraq, as well as strategic blunders by al-Qaeda that have cut into its support base.

Now, we all know the Democratic mantra. It's summed up rather nicely by Barack Obama.

America's standing has suffered. Our diplomacy has been compromised by a refusal to talk to people we don't like. Our alliances have been compromised by bluster. Our credibility has been compromised by a faulty case for war. Our moral leadership has been compromised by Abu Ghraib. That is a cost of this war. Perhaps the saddest irony of the Administration's cynical use of 9/11 is that the Iraq War has left us less safe than we were before 9/11.

Osama bin Ladin and his top lieutenants have rebuilt a new base in Pakistan where they freely train recruits, plot new attacks, and disseminate propaganda. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan. Iran has emerged as the greatest strategic challenge to America in the Middle East in a generation. Violent extremism has increased. Terrorism has increased.

All of that is a cost of this war. After 9/11, instead of the politics of unity, we got a political strategy of division with the war in Iraq as its centerpiece. The only thing we were asked to do for our country was support a misguided war. We lost that sense of common purpose as Americans. And we're not going to be a truly united and resolute America until we can stop holding our breath, until we can come together to reclaim our foreign policy and our politics and end this war that has cost us so much.

Clearly, if you believe this report, everything that Obama said in this particular speech is just plain wrong. Of course, spin and propaganda become fact if they aren't challenged. The Democrats have tried to use each and every negative report to paint a picture of a failed GWOT policy. When the NIE suggested that Iraq was being used as a "cause celebre" by jihadists, the Democrats pounced on it and milked the report for every last bit of political juice.

The lesson is that perception is reality. The Republicans now have a credible report to make the case that we are safer. They now have the kind of credibility necessary to push back against the scurrilous attacks of the Democrats that make it seem as though everything that has happened over the last seven years vis a vis the GWOT has been a failure. The only question is whether or not they will use it to make their case.

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