How odd (or to be expected) that suddenly intelligence agencies, analysts, journalists, and terrorists themselves are attesting that al-Qaeda is in near ruins, that ideologically radical Islam is losing its appeal, and that terrorist incidents against Americans at home and abroad outside the war zones are at an all-time low–and yet few associate the radical change in fortune in Iraq as a contributory cause to our success.
But surely the US military contributed a great deal to the humiliation of al-Qaedists and the bankruptcy of their cause, since it has (1) killed thousands of generic jihadists, and to such a degree that the former Middle East romance of going to Iraq to fight the weak crusaders is now synonymous with a death sentence and defeat; (2) provided the window of security necessary for the growing confidence of the Maliki government whose success is absolutely destroying the Islamist canard that the U.S. backs only dictatorships. Indeed, al-Qaeda’s greatest fear is successful Arab constitutional government; something still caricatured here at home as a neocon pipe dream.
In addition, the grotesque tactics that al-Qaeda in duress developed in Iraq weakened its case throughout the Middle East; while the Americans learned just the opposite lesson under Gen. Petraeus–how to win hearts and mind while mastering the elements of counter-insurgency. In contrast, the terrorists learned how to lose a war while alienating the Muslim population.
I would expect the Maliki government to gain greater respect abroad, and maybe it will cease to be the punching bag here at home, given its recent accomplishments–made possible by the efforts of the U.S. military. There is an odd feeling that the more books come out damning the Iraq war, and the more politicians write it off as a fiasco, the more Iraqis are showing the world that a constitutional government can survive the enormous odds set against it. Final note. I think this May may have been the lowest month for American military fatalities (19) since the war started in March 2003.