I came across this interesting post on Dan Drezner’s weblog, and I got to thinking about this topic. The first thing, before we start arguing about the answer to the title of the post, is what is the rubric? How should we try to measure whether the effect has been positive?
It seems to me that we have to measure where we are against the hypothetical world of where we would have been had we done nothing at all. But I am uncertain that we will be able to come to agreement on that – and especially on the basic question of: Are we safer now?
Anyway, here’s Drezner’s post, and he points to a recent survey that indicates bin Laden and al Queda are losing popularity among Muslims (imagine that, when they are targeting Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere).
Is the war against Al Qaeda generating results?
Bruce Jentleson kicks off his first post for America Abroad with a valid question:
At Fort Bragg and after London, President Bush has stayed on message about the need to show resolve. Resolve in Iraq, resolve in the GWOT. But the issue can?t be just the will to stay the course — it also has to be whether the policies we are staying with are sound enough and solid enough to win in our arenas.
Just about everyone is questioning the policy on Iraq ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/08/AR2005070802303.html ). However, one of the key criticisms of the Iraq war is that it incubated a new generation of adherents to Al Qaeda. Is that really true? Are the Bush administration’s anti-terrorim policies “sound enough and solid enough to win in our arenas”?
Via Orin Kerr, I see the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey is up ( http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=248 ), and there are some numbers that suggest the answer is (mostly) yes. It turns out that Osama bin Laden is losing the hearts and minds of Muslims. Susan Page summarizes in USA Today:
[i]Support for suicide bombings has dropped significantly in several predominantly Muslim nations, a worldwide public-opinion survey has found ? a positive note at a time concerns have been heightened by terrorist attacks in London, Iraq and Israel.
The report by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, released Thursday, also found substantial concern about Islamic extremism not only among Westerners but also in Muslim nations. Three-quarters of those in Morocco and roughly half of those in Pakistan, Turkey and Indonesia said Islamic extremism posed a threat to their countries. [/i]
Click here for more poll results: http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=248 . As Nick Gillespie put it in Hit & Run ( http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2005/07/bin_laden_hopes.shtml#010189 ), “Bin Laden: Hopes for Re-Election as World’s Most Popular Asshole Dim.”
[Note: Follow the original link to see the charts]
The numbers offer support to both supporters and critics of the way the Bush administration has prosecuted the war of terror.
On the one hand, the numbers are trending in the right direction, and the comparison between the July 2002 numbers and July 2005 numbers in most countries suggests that Iraq hasn’t generated the greater sympathy for Al Qaeda and its aims that some Bush critics have predicted. It remains possible that the invasion of Iraq had a negative effect on Muslim attitudes, but these figures suggest that at a minimum this effect was dwarfed by more powerful counter-trends. Indeed, the trend suggests staying the course with the current set of anti-terrorism policies.
On the other hand, the numbers for Jordan are not trending in the desired direction at all. This could be due to Iraq, although if that was the case one would have expected a similar trend in Turkey and that hasn’t happened. Still, it should disturb policy analysts across the policy spectrum that the one Arab country simultaneously possessing a free trade agreement with the United States and a peace treaty with Israel has a population that is growing more comfortable with radical Islam.