The president spoke clearly for the first time this past autumn about who is the enemy—radical Islam—and what it wants: an empire stretching from Spain to Indonesia.
This is a war against the international community, launched by a religious ideology and death cult determined to restore the caliphate that collapsed in 1924 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. This movement, propelled in recent years by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, opposes every element of the international system: the state, international law, international organizations, universal human rights, and the principles behind professional military and diplomatic services.
The Middle East has transmogrified into a three-headed creature whose behavior has become adversarial to world order in unprecedented ways: (1) rogue states such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which defied 18 U.N. resolutions from 1991 to 2003; (2) failed states such as Afghanistan, where first the Taliban and then Al Qaeda took over territory where legitimate governance had disappeared to establish bases for training and planning terrorist assaults; and (3) enabler states such as Saudi Arabia, which has used subsidies and propaganda to divert the danger from Saddamists and Islamists away from themselves toward Israel, Europe, and America.
What emerged in the 1990s was a civil war within the Arab-Islamic world, pitting the terror-wielding enemies of the international state system against every regime in the region. To the caliphate-driven ideologues, every state is an enemy.
The United States has entered this civil war with the impact of the first shot on a pool table that scatters billiard balls in every direction. A vast transformation is under way as the old politics of the dictators, mullahs, and spurious presidents gives way to the freedoms and dignity choked off by generations of brutal oppression. The record of progress, although partial, is remarkable.
Pakistan, once a sure bet to be Talibanized, with its nuclear arsenal falling into terrorist hands, is now on the side of the world community. The nuclear arms network of A. Q. Khan has been thwarted, a giant step in nonproliferation.
Afghanistan, once bin Laden’s undisturbed base, has been restored to international legitimacy as a sovereign state.
Iran has been revealed as the terrorist-supporting, nuclear arms-seeking regime it became after the ayatollah’s revolution of 1979. The instruments of world order are putting pressure on Tehran’s plans to gain nuclear weapons.
Iraq is moving toward the full legitimacy that Saddam Hussein stole from the Iraqi people. Sovereignty has been restored, free elections have been held, and a constitution has been approved.
Saudi Arabia, awakened by firefights with Al Qaeda gunmen in its cities, has begun to recognize that it cannot continue its practice of bribing terrorists and anti-Western propaganda. Some significant, if trivial, steps toward reform can be seen.
Egypt, too, has been shaken out of the assumption that a quarter-century-long presidency can be regarded as a decent form of governance. Mubarak is still president, but the election that returned him to office was different.
Lebanon has begun to shake itself free and start its return to the legitimate statehood it possessed before Syria took over in the 1970s. This would not have happened had the United States not helped Iraq on its own journey to independence. The U.N. resolution of a year ago calling on Syrian forces to leave Lebanon refutes claims that the United States is alone in bringing change to the region.
Muammar Qaddafi’s dramatic decision to give up Libya’s arsenal is a signal achievement of the Bush policy.
Finally, a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine has been significantly advanced by Israel’s handover of Gaza. Nothing could be more disastrous for the radical Islamist cause than mutual recognition by Israel and Palestine and the acceptance of both by the Arab world.
Even the Europeans are climbing aboard the train. Every NATO country is now engaged in training the new Iraqi army. NATO troops may soon take the leading security role in Afghanistan.
What is going on across the Middle East is of as great significance for international peace and security as were World War II and the Cold War. Those wars also were waged by terror-using dictators and ideologues against the international state system. Hitler’s Reich and Imperial Japan lost. The Soviet Union lost. The rogues and radicals and tyrants that have held down the Middle East for decades are going to lose as well.