No, we haven't been defeated. We're doing pretty well in the war against terrorists and the nations that support them. But we seem to have misplaced the war in the midst of this very odd presidential campaign. It's wonderful to watch Kerry's pals in the mainstream media. There's nothing too outrageous for the media to say, and if the news doesn't bring them fodder for the evening broadcast, they just make stuff up. But what did Kerry say last week? If he said anything, I didn't hear or read it. The Dan Rather brigade is so eager to trash Bush, they've drowned out Kerry altogether.
It's great fun to watch Rather's nose grow longer every day. The sorry tale of the Chirac Broadcasting System's phony National Guard memos drags on and on. Facts showing that the memos are forgeries continue to swarm, CBS's "sources" are lining up to deny the memos' authenticity, and Gunga Dan just keeps denying there's any stain on his blue dress.
The mainstream media wants us to hear the details of every setback in Iraq, real or imagined. But any news that doesn't help defeat George Bush is not -- to them -- worth printing or broadcasting. The media are so desperate to see Bush lose, they have lost track of everything else. Well, boys and girls, there's a big bad world out there, and unless we get on with fighting it, we can lose this war. Wars don't wait for the outcome of presidential races. There's a whole lot we need to pay attention to right now.
We've passed another anniversary of 9/11 without a major terrorist attack against us here or abroad, though small ones happen against our troops in Iraq every day. It's awfully likely that we will see some large attack in the U.S. homeland before the election, because the terrorists want to affect the result. Three years into this war, we aren't at the end of the beginning. It's time to take stock, and maybe adjust what we're doing. How are we doing?
THE TALIBAN AREN'T RUNNING Afghanistan, and the Karzai government is readying for the October 9 election. Just this week, opposition warlord Ismail Khan, mayor of the northwestern city of Herat, was fired by Karzai. Though our troops are suffering mobility problems (not, as Ayman al-Zawahiri said because we are being defeated, but because a still-too-slow decision process is delaying our hunter-killer teams), we probably are at a B+ in Afghanistan. Whatever is holding up our people and limiting their mobility should be solved, and right now. Some things -- such as the lousy road conditions there -- can't be fixed. But that's what we have helos for, guys.
Taliban and al-Q will try to cause a major upheaval there both to disrupt the Afghan election and to affect ours. If the Afghan election comes off without major disruption, that grade may get up to an A-.
Saddam's regime is gone, but Iraq isn't close to being stable or free. Our casualties there have passed the 1,000 mark while Sadr's militia is still active and the insurgents hold several cities. Iran -- and its Iraqi proxy, al-Sadr -- will do everything possible to turn Iraq into an even bloodier mess for the same reason al-Q wants to attack us before the election: to affect the results. We should be doing much more to destroy the insurgency in Iraq, but we can't unless Allawi lets us. We are paying a high price for turning sovereignty back to the Iraqis too soon.
Senior Defense Department officials said last week that the Allawi government knows it can't let the insurgents remain in control of any city. The advice to Allawi, from our military leadership, is that you can't demonstrate that you have lost control of an area more than a couple of times without losing control everywhere. It's perfectly unclear that Allawi will take this to heart, and enable our forces to hit the insurgents hard enough and often enough to clear the way for the elections in January. If he doesn't, the election may not be accomplished. In Iraq, we started with an A+. Now we're down to gentleman's C's.
Iran is at least close to achieving possession of nuclear weapons and the ability to manufacture them. One expat Iranian source tells me that Iran's "Supreme Leader," Ali al Khameni, has ordered his regime to produce its first nuke by mid-2005. One senior defense official said last week that Iran was being "actively unhelpful" in Iraq. His overly-diplomatic comment meant that Iran was running the al-Sadr insurgency and had become one of the principal obstacles to freedom in Iraq. We are blathering at the U.N. about Iran, and apparently not doing much else. Iran won't push its nuke ambitions to affect our election. They want to let it go ahead quickly and quietly. We can't afford that, without regard to the election. For now, Iran is a D or D-. If the mullahs achieve nuclear weapons, that grade will drop to a big fat F.
KIM JONG-IL HAS PUSHED the North Korean nuclear program to the brink of success. The NKs are about to conduct a test of a nuclear weapon. Last week, the South Koreans (which means U.S. satellites) reported a huge explosion in North Korea that the BBC said produced "a cloud with a radius of up to 4km (2.5 miles)." This wasn't a nuclear blast, but they may well test a nuke in the next few weeks. Why?
Kim is no descendant of Werner von Braun. Maybe he thinks an atomic test could scare us into electing John Kerry. In truth, the opposite result is more likely. More and more voters -- both undecided and those changing their minds -- are taking a page from Zell Miller's speech. They look at their kids and grandkids and decide they don't want a president who wants to fight a "more sensitive war." John Kerry said he wants America to be respected, not feared. Sorry, Johnnie. I prefer "feared," especially in regard to the jihadists whose religiously-driven ideology precludes them from respecting us. I expect most Americans see it the same way. Meanwhile, for North Korea, we're at a B-.
At home, we are safer, but still not by any means safe. Reports that Federal Air Marshals are being required to disclose their identities to get government-rate hotel rooms is beyond stupid and within range of bizarre. Border security is still worse than spotty, and though information is beginning to flow to state and local law enforcement and emergency response agencies, what they're getting is not what they need. (Those state and local egotists who are insisting on Top Secret clearances should sit down and shut up. What you need, sonny, is digested info specific to your need to plan. You don't need what the President gets in his CIA daily brief.) Homeland Security? So far, C-. If what is being reported about the FAMs disclosing identities, someone should get an "F" as in fired, and the practice should cease. If we get through our election without a major attack here, the grade automatically rises to B+.
C students rule the world. They also win and lose wars. In this case, we're winning, but not decisively. The world is a tough grader. We need to do a more, and quickly. Our October surprise should be a big nasty one for Iran.
TAS Contributing Editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the U.N. and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery Publishing).
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