PROGRESS REPORT

Victor Davis Hanson has a pretty fair assessment of the war on terrorists to date:

In liberating 50 million people from both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein it has lost so far less than 500 soldiers — some of whom were killed precisely because they waged a war that sought to minimalize not just civilian casualties but even the killing of their enemies. Contrary to the invective of Western intellectuals, the American military’s sins until recently have been of omission — preferring not to shoot looters or hunt down and kill insurgents — rather than brutal commission. While the United States has conducted these successive wars some 7,000 miles beyond its borders, it also avoided another terrorist attack of the scale of September 11 — and all the while crafting a policy of containment of North Korea and soon-to-be nuclear Iran.

Thus by any comparative standard of military history, the last two difficult years, despite setbacks and disappointments, represent a remarkable military achievement. Yet no one would ever gather even the slightest acknowledgment of such success from our Democratic grandees. Al Gore dubbed the Iraqi liberation a quagmire and, absurdly, the worst mistake in the history of American foreign policy. Howard Dean, more absurdly, suggested that the president of the United States might have had foreknowledge of September 11. Most Americans now shudder at the thought that the former might have been president in this time of crisis — and that the latter still could be.

Indeed.

After several paragraphs assessing the views of leftist pundits and Middle Eastern Islamists, Hanson argues

The so-called Arab street and its phony intellectuals sense that influential progressive Westerners will never censure Middle Eastern felonies if there is a chance to rage about Western misdemeanors. It is precisely this parasitic relationship between the foreign and domestic critics of the West that explains much of the strange confidence of those who planned September 11. It was the genius of bin Laden, after all, that he suspected after he had incinerated 3,000 Westerners an elite would be more likely to blame itself for the calamity — searching for “root causes” than marshalling its legions to defeat a tribe that embraced theocracy, autocracy, gender apartheid, polygamy, anti-Semitism, and religious intolerance. And why not after Lebanon, the first World Trade Center bombing, the embassies in Africa, murder in Saudi Arabia, and the USS Cole? It was the folly of bin Laden only that he assumed the United States was as far gone as Europe and that a minority of its ashamed elites had completely assumed control of American political, cultural, and spiritual life.

(Hat tip: Randy Barnett)

FILED UNDER: Terrorism
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.