- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2005

We’ve always known winning the war on terror would be difficult. But hearing critics such as Rep. John Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, claim “we’re making no progress at all” in Iraq, you’d think it was impossible. Fortunately, the pessimists are wrong.

There has been some bad news, to be sure. It is war, after all. More than 2,000 U.S. troops have died, and some areas remain far from secure. But we’re making some serious progress. And the Iraqis know it, judging by the two-thirds who have been telling pollsters they’re better off now than under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

Take, for example, how Iraqi army and security forces have grown from just one operational battalion in July 2004 to more than 120 today. More than 200,000 trained Iraqis now play an active role in rooting out insurgents.

Are they being effective? The Iraqi people apparently think so, considering the growing number of intelligence tips they’ve passed along. In March 2005, Iraqi and coalition forces received 483 intelligence tips from Iraqi citizens, according to Heritage Foundation Middle East expert James Phillips. This figure rose to 3,300 in August and more than 4,700 in September.

So there’s reason for optimism, even given the inevitable setbacks, in Iraq and elsewhere before we win this war.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made this point during a Dec. 13 address at the Heritage Foundation.

She looked back at the world of the late 1940s, when the tide of history seemed to be running against the United States. “Whether it was the communists winning large minorities in France and Italy in 1946, or in 1947 the Greek civil war and the tensions and the strife in Turkey, or in 1948 Germany permanently divided in the Berlin events, or in 1948 the Czechoslovak coup, or in 1949 the Soviet Union exploding a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule and the Chinese communists winning their civil war, those weren’t minor setbacks,” Miss Rice said, “Those were huge strategic defeats.”

Yet, she noted, the West pulled together behind U.S. leadership and built a lasting peace: “It was not inevitable that Japan was going to emerge as a free, democratic state and an ally of the United States after what we had suffered in Pearl Harbor and in the Pacific. Nothing was inevitable about any of this, and yet now it seems inevitable.”

The same is true in Iraq today. It wasn’t inevitable 8.5 million Iraqis would vote last January. It wasn’t inevitable Iraqis could write their own democratic constitution, or almost 10 million would vote in the October referendum on that constitution. And it wasn’t inevitable the minority Sunnis would set aside violence and join the political process for the Dec. 15 nationwide vote.

And under American leadership, all these happened.

By taking out Saddam and the Taliban in Afghanistan, we’ve sent a message to our enemies: Our military is ready and able to remove any government that sponsors terrorism or refuses to abide by international demands.

It’s no surprise Libya decided to surrender its weapons program. In addition, Syria was forced out of Lebanon, giving the democracy movement in both countries a boost.

If we stay the course, Miss Rice says, the Middle East can become “a place of peace and democracy,” and “it will be unimaginable that it could be a region that produces an ideology of hatred so great that people fly airplanes into buildings on a fine September day.” Those are big goals — worth reaching for, no matter how difficult.

Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation.

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