The recent U.S. intelligence estimate on Iraq doesn’t paint a pretty picture. For President Bush, the lesson of the past few months in Iraq is that there will always be these negative naysayers, weak at the knees and stoked by the liberal press (this, even though the assessment essentially comes from his own team). For John Kerry, the lesson is that the President has done a poor job and even in the face of compelling evidence presented by his own administration, he still continues to mislead Americans about the state of the “march to freedom” in Iraq.
But there is a much more important and much more troubling lesson in all of this. It has to do with the effectiveness of terrorism. A limited number of people in Iraq have managed to throw that country into instability and by all evenhanded accounts, the very idea of a democratic and peaceful Iraq is now at stake.
Terrorist acts will rearrange the government in Russia. They’ve impacted elections in Europe and largely dominated the airtime in our own election. They’ve thrown the Middle East peace process into what seems like an endless backwards spiral (and remember, Israel is the country with the by far the most expertise when it comes to dealing with terrorist threats).
The lesson of these times is that relatively small groups of people can have a major impact on world leaders and populations. And we should be spending a much more significant amount our debate time trying to come up with better ways to defuse this growing threat.