During the previous administration’s travails in Iraq, the most difficult canard for its defenders was the assertion that no form of battlefield success could overcome the broader indices of defeat. Terror in the internet age was intrinsically unstoppable. Every defeat merely nurtured a renewed the sense of wrong, broadcast to untold thousands of sleeper cells by an unstoppable Ethernet.
Win in Afghanistan, lose in Iraq. Win in Iraq, lose in Lebanon, Syria, India, Pakistan. A new era was dawning: The triumph of raging victimhood against any and all: the Age of Hysterius.
The latest evidence contradicts this dark vision. The 2008 Report on Terrorism of the National Terrorism Center documents not only a decline in terror attacks in Iraq, but an 18% decline in attacks worldwide, and a 30% decline in fatalities. The authors estimate that the relative pacification of Iraq accounts for only half the measured reductions.
The Bush administration’s strategy of finding, harassing, and killing terrorists has doubtless played its role, making the lives of terrorists nasty, brutish, and brief. But another factor in the decline of terror is 4th Generation War — the factor that led some to hypothesize its invincibility. In 2008, 61% of the victims of terror were civilians, and a rising percentage of these were children. The same Ethernet that broadcast the grievance of the terrorists deglamorized them.
This development was evident in polls of Iraq citizens that National Review has chronicled over the past few years. The “Arab man in the street” hated Saddam’s Mukhabaret . . . and coalition troops . . . and militias, both Sunni and Shi’ite . . . in a word, anyone wielding guns. But the most hated group in Iraq, particularly after the bombing of the Golden Dome, was al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, the arbitrary killer of beggars in dumpsters, children in schools, and women at market.
Terror proved its own worst publicist.