- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

The timing was pure coincidence, but a successful democratic election in Afghanistan over the weekend and John Howard’s decisive victory in Australia each in their way show that the coalition is winning the war on terror.

A genuine democratic election in war-tornandhistoricallyundemocratic Afghanistan is monumental by any account. Early reports indicated some irregularities, but by yesterday morning, monitors from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were defending the overall integrity of the election. Taliban insurgents promised attacks to disrupt the voting but were either thwarted by Coalition and Afghan security forces or had already been rendered incapable of doing much harm. Where once democracy was a distant idea, now it is a reality.

The results won’t be in for two to three weeks — the ballots haven’t even begun to be counted — but in a country where electricity is scarce and ballot boxes travel by donkey, that’s to be expected. President Bush said it all this weekend when he pointed out that in Afghanistan, “Just three years ago, women were being executed in the sports stadium. Today they’re voting for a leader of a free country.”

Credit goes first to the voters of Afghanistan who braved the Taliban’s repeated threats not to vote. Where before Afghans were subjects, now they are an electorate. Credit should also go to Afghan electoral officials and security forces, who administered an election for the first time and kept order despite continued lawlessness in much of the country. Credit also goes to the Coalition forces who routed the Taliban regime, and now guard a fragile and emerging democracy where an abusive theocracy once stood. And of course credit goes to Mr. Bush, whose determination in the weeks after the September 11th attacks to remove the Taliban made Afghan democracy a possibility in the first place.

Meanwhile, a few thousand miles away in wealthy and industrialized Australia, Prime Minister John Howard handed the Labor Party’s Mark Latham a resounding defeat on a wave of support for his economic policies and trust for his good judgement on security. The Australian electorate is equivocal on the war — a recent poll showed 53 percent of Australians support finishing the job even though 51 percent favor withdrawal — but in the election it showed it trusts Mr. Howard more than Mr. Latham, who came to be viewed as inexperienced after campaigning on a vigorous antiwar platform. His promise to withdraw troops from Iraq by Christmas had less appeal than his strategists had hoped, it turns out.

For the United States, that’s significant: It shows that Spain’s move to elect an appeaser after suffering a terror strike was an anomaly. Perhaps terrorists cannot expect to pick off U.S. antiterror allies with a few deadly bombing campaigns. That’s a major victory for the war on terror.

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