But seeing anything in WaPo print that offers a quiet praise for the Bush Doctrine - i.e. aggressively pursuing the Global Islamic Jihad Movement on Iraqi land - is a day that will forever live in infamy.
Gerecht dissects the popular, media fed notion that Iraq has significantly increased the amount of "holy warriors" in both number and intensity by comparing it to the decade long Soviet-Afghan conflict.
Regarding the Iraq war and jihadism, two facts stand out. First, if we make a comparison with the Soviet-Afghan war of 1979-89, which was the baptismal font for al-Qaeda, what's most striking is how few foreign holy warriors have gone to Mesopotamia since the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Admittedly, we don't have a perfect grasp of the numbers involved in either conflict. But the figure of 25,000 Arab mujaheddin is probably a decent figure for those who went to Pakistan to fight the Red Army. Most probably did so in the last four years of the war, when the recruitment organizations and logistics became well developed. In Iraq, we see nothing of this magnitude, even though Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is in the Arab heartland and at the center of Islamic history. Moreover, for Arabs, getting to Iraq isn't difficult, and once there they speak the language and know the culture. And of course the United States, the bete noire of Islamists, is the enemy in Iraq.
But according to the CIA and the U.S. military, we are now seeing at most only dozens of Arab Sunni holy warriors entering the country each month. Even at the height of the insurgency in 2006-07, the figure might have been just a few hundred (and may have been much smaller).
It still puzzles me why so many were eager to desert Iraq using the retreating rally cry of "civil war". Would they also be so dismissive if we had a fraction of US denizens, violently rebelling against our own elected government, murdering innocents by the hundreds weekly? Or would we not just label them thugs, gangs and criminals and take control? In the same vein, why should we stand by idly and watch native *or* foreign thugs thwart the Iraqi majority after American blood was shed to give them this opportunity?
Pundits will still stubbornly argue that Iraq is creating jihadists left and right, despite Gerecht's history recap pointing to the contrary. There is no doubt that the popularity of jihad has suffered large setbacks, with Iraqis bonding to rebel against radicalization. The brutal rules of engagement of the 21st century militants has worked it's own peculiar magic... that of isolating them from their Muslim brethern. This attitude, happening in the heart of the historic Muslim Caliphate, is a tremendous, strategic victory that pundits and pols are unwilling to give to GWB in an election year.
Evidence of their failure to inspire world wide jihad from the majority of Muslims lies in the events and behaviour of the jihad movement today. Terrorists (i.e. Taliban and AQ, or Sayd Imam vs Zawahiri) now fight amongst themselves about rules of engagement. They work as rogue cells and divided, independent fighters. And evidently they are running out of willing suicide bombers, since they are absconding mentally unstable women as their walking bombs. None of these are indicators of a congealed movement, flush with enthusiastic new fighters.
But I digress... back to that unheralded and faint praise for Bush. Buried deep at the bottom of the article comes the subtle zinger:
It's way too soon to call Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda spiritual outcasts among Arab Muslims, but they have in fact sustained enormous damage throughout the region because of Iraq. The lack of holy-warrior manpower coming from the Muslim Brotherhood is surely, in part, a reflection of this discomfort with al-Qaeda's violence, the complexity of Iraqi politics and America's not entirely negative role inside the country. If bin Ladenism is now on the decline -- and it may well be among Arabs -- then Iraq has played an essential part in battering the movement's spiritual appeal.
Iraq could still fall apart (and if an American president starts withdrawing troops haphazardly, it probably will). The country's descent into chaos and renewed sectarian strife would likely reenergize Islamic extremism. But it is certainly not too soon to suggest that Iraq could well become America's decisive victory over Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda and all those Muslims who believe that God has sanctified violence against the United States.
Most citizens agree that a change of heart for Muslims - distancing themselves from Wahabbism mentality - was necessary to curtail the jihad movement. Certainly the opportunity for the jihad movement to show their use of wonton violence against not only women and children, but their own fellow Muslims indiscriminately, has achieved that distancing as effectively as the Iraqis creating their own Arab democracy. A two for one whammy, if you will.
No doubt, had these "atta boy" paragraphs floated to the top - or heaven forbid to the headline - it most surely would have been buried deeper in the paper, or rejected totally as another "fairy tale". Praise for this President - even deserved - is taboo.