Victories in the War against Terrorism; as the U.S. Piles Up Victories on Many Fronts against Terrorism, Some Bush Officials Insist the Long-Term Strategy for the War on Terror Needs to Be Bolder

Article excerpt

Byline: J. Michael Waller, INSIGHT

The United States and its allies are chewing their way through terror networks on every populated continent. On any given day, international terrorists and their leaders are surrendering, being captured or killed. Terrorist commanders from Iraq to Indonesia face life sentences in prison or await execution. Those who remain find their networks in tatters, their funding sources starting to dry up and fewer places to hide.

Things have changed in the two years since 9/11. The terrorists now are the prey, though still a dangerous one.

Some say the United States is being too aggressive in fighting terrorism, citing insensitivity to other cultures abroad and alleged abuses of civil liberties at home. Others, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, insist that the United States isn't fighting hard enough or creatively enough and has yet to take a strategic approach to a war expected to take years or even decades [see sidebar, p. 28].

The civilized world faces more ugly and painful realities ahead, and the elites aren't getting their customary instant gratification of a quick, tidy victory. Yet despite deep and emotional divisions over the ouster of Saddam Hussein, the Arab-Israeli hostilities, the sheer aggressiveness of the

U.S.-led offensive against the world's terrorists and their friends and Washington's inept communication with the rest of the world, the United States still has the support of most of the countries that matter. That's important, Bush-administration officials say, because the toughest part may be yet to come.

President George W. Bush has racked up an impressive string of victories in a little more than two years. He led an unheard-of Marine invasion and Naval bombardment of landlocked

Afghanistan, destroying the terrorist, Wahhabi-backed Taliban regime, tearing up the sanctuaries of al-Qaeda and freeing a grateful people from a Dark Ages nightmare. He commanded an audacious and spectacularly successful invasion of Iraq, breaking records of military history in a campaign that ousted Saddam Hussein and ripped up the totalitarian Ba'athist Party.

While human casualties have been low, the political and diplomatic casualties for the administration have been costly. Sold to the public and the world on legalistic grounds as enforcement of U.N. resolutions, the Iraq war was and is, according to the new White House line, a central front against terrorism.

Still, Iraq has produced major diplomatic successes for the United States. In mid-October, within hours of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) assailing the Iraq war as a "fraud" built on "lies," the United Nations including Russia, Syria and even France voted unanimously, in effect, to ratify U.S. control of Iraq and t recognize the provisional Iraqi governing council in Baghdad.

The United States is far from alone. More than 40 countries are supporting the Iraq operation. Depending on the count, as many as 70 countries are helping the United States either overtly or covertly to wage war on the terrorists, administration officials tell Insight. No major terrorist attack has succeeded on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorists have far less freedom to operate as the war goes on around the world. The

State Department's annual report on terrorism, released earlier this year, shows a 44 percent drop in attacks by "international terrorists" in 2002 from the previous year and down to its lowest level since 1969 more than three decades ago.

Even some of the regimes the State Department has designated as state sponsors of terrorism, including Syria and Sudan, have found it necessary to extend varying degrees of cooperation. "Friendly" governments such as Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf state of Qatar have stopped, as far as can be seen, funding Taliban-like movements that sheltered al-Qaeda. European allies, some supportive of U. …