In March 2004 Al Qaeda won its first parliamentary election in Europe. It installed the trailing candidate José Luis Zapatero as prime minister of Spain. It clinched this victory just three days before the election by exploding 10 bombs causing the death of 191 people and the wounding of 1,700 others.
The grateful prime minister quickly repaid his election backers by withdrawing his country’s 1,300 troops from Iraq.
On November 7, 2006, Al Qaeda looks set to win its first U.S. Congressional election. This time Al Qaeda’s campaign strategy has shown itself somewhat earlier: a steady but deliberate boost in the body count of American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan as the election approaches. It is daunting to think what peak this may reach by the eve of the election.
In the past, the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist agencies have been content to simply scare off foreign troops with dastardly acts of wholesale terror. Like the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, which left 240 American servicemen dead and 40 others wounded. Despite then-vice president George Bush’s statement that America “would not be cowed by terrorists,” all U.S. troops were pulled out within 6 months.
This time Al Qaeda is gunning for Congress. But why bother flying a plane into the Capitol building if you can defeat President Bush through the ballot box? Why hijack an aircraft in the sky when you can hijack votes on the ground? Even now, the very fear of a GOP defeat is forcing the Bush administration into seeking some kind of exit strategy in Iraq.
Virtually everyone agrees that the Iraq policy has failed. My personal view is that it was right for the U.S. to remove Saddam, a tyrant to his own people and a clear threat to world peace. Being firmly of the view that “Arabs don’t do democracy,” I was pleasantly surprised that the coalition managed to organize a free election. But I can’t see this freedom lasting, especially if the coalition withdraws.
The fact that the Iraq policy is stalled does not necessarily mean that the only sensible option is to withdraw. However much enmity there may be for America in the region, such a retreat would betray all those who seek freedom from tyranny. They will never again trust the West.
In particular, such an open abandonment of desperate people on the very cusp of freedom would totally undermine the chances of any popular uprising against the mullahs in Tehran. That remains the best and most risk-free way of restoring freedom to the people of Iran and neutralizing its nuclear threat.
But when the time comes for Iranian students to stand before the tank-treads, they need to be certain that the free world will not abandon them in their hour of need. Nothing will deflate them more than America turning its back on Iraq. And nothing will empower them more than an American president who sticks to his promises and thumbs his nose at the pollsters.
If America beats a hasty retreat, it is almost certain that radical fundamentalists will emerge from the ensuing civil war in control of Iraq and its oil wealth. With support from Iran in the East, this new Axis member will quickly overrun its Western neighbor Jordan and finish Abdullah and his Hashemite Kingdom. Then the Islamists will at last have Israel completely encircled in an arc of terror stretching from Lebanon, to Syria, to the new Islamic Republic of Jordan and of course Palestinian Gaza.
Yes, the Iraq policy has stalled. And yes, something dramatic needs to be done. But failure cannot be an option.
The answer is not to bring troops home, but to send out an equal number of fresh troops to double the forces of freedom in the frontline of the war on terror. And then to win that war. That was, of course, the original objective.
Writing these lines from London, linked by tunnel and treaty to a continent of appeasement, I find it astonishing that Americans – particularly Jewish Americans – would allow Al Qaeda a congressional victory by empowering a Zapatero platform of retreat and withdrawal in voting Democrat in the coming election.