October 2005: Peter Jennings has passed away, Al Jazeera is still with us — though arguably less antagonistic since the Iraqi presidential election of January 2005. The terror war within Iraq continues to pit terrorist hell against democratic hope. A multitude of economic and governmental challenges linger.
But current combat in Iraq is not simply the result of slapdash postwar planning. The United States has two strategic goals that have taken years to mesh in terms of political, economic and military operations.
Goal One: engage Al-Qaida on military and political battlefields in order to destroy its claim to “divine sanction” and to “speak on behalf of Islam.”
Goal Two: seed development of modern, democratic states in the politically dysfunctional Arab Muslim Middle East.
Achieving both goals defeats Al-Qaida. Goal Two is a multi-decade project. Reaching it requires sustained, courageous effort, but Iraq’s January election and its constitutional process are signs of progress. Sensational carnage and “expert pessimism” dominated the international media’s January election coverage. Despite the dour predictions, Iraqi voters responded, waving ink-stained fingers — a terror-defying demonstration of political change. Al Jazeera didn’t miss it.
Military defeat in Afghanistan dealt Al-Qaida’s claim of “divine sanction” a hard blow.
However, smashing Al-Qaida’s claim to act on behalf of “all Muslims” is far more complicated than killing or arresting terrorists. Undermining its megalomaniacal appeal meant exposing it as the inhuman, ungodly Mass Murder Inc. it is. The optimal outcome would be to expose Al-Qaida as a threat to Muslims and detrimental to the best ideals of Islam.
When Al-Qaida’s zealots blow up trains in Spain or subways in London, those are attacks of their choosing conducted on “infidel terrain.” The genius of the war in Iraq is a brutal but necessary form of strategic judo: It brought the War on Terror into the heart of the Middle East and onto Arab Muslim turf. In Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s theo-fascists have been spilling Arab blood, and Al Jazeera has noticed that, too.
Arabs have also seen the Iraqi people’s struggle and their emerging political alternative to despotism and feudal autocracy.
Read the whole thing. As the man says, every last word.