August 22, 2005

MICHAEL BARONE writes about metrics in the War on Terror:

But the most important changes occurring, not just in Iraq but across the Muslim world, are changes in people’s minds. These are harder, but not impossible, to measure. George W. Bush has proclaimed that we are working to build democracy in Iraq not just for Iraqis but in order to advance freedom and defeat fanatical Islamist terrorism around the world. Now comes the Pew Global Attitudes Project’s recent survey of opinion in six Muslim countries to tell us that progress is being made in achieving that goal. Minds are being changed and in the right direction.

Most important, support for terrorism in defense of Islam has “declined dramatically,” in the Pew report’s words, in Muslim countries, except in Jordan (which has a Palestinian majority) and Turkey, where support has remained a low 14 percent. It has fallen in Indonesia (from 27 to 15 percent since 2002), Pakistan (from 41 to 25 percent since 2004), Morocco (from 40 to 13 percent since 2004), and among Muslims in Lebanon (from 73 to 26 percent since 2002). Support for suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq has also declined. The percentage reporting some confidence in Osama bin Laden is now under 10 percent in Lebanon and Turkey and has fallen sharply in Indonesia. . . .

This is not to say that everybody in these countries has good things to say about the United States. But we are not engaged in a popularity contest. We’re trying to construct a safer world. We are in the long run better off if Muslims around the world turn away from terrorism and move toward democracy, even if we don’t like some of the internal policies they choose and even if they don’t have much affection for the United States. Two generations ago Americans, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of deaths, changed minds in Germany and Japan. The Pew Global Project Attitude’s metrics give us reason to believe that today’s Americans, at far lower cost, are once again changing minds in the Muslim world.

Meanwhile StrategyPage notes what seems to be good news in Saudi Arabia:

It’s been a bad week for al Qaeda in Arabia. The terrorist organization piled up more failures and defeats, adding to their growing reputation as loudmouthed losers.

First, Saudi Arabian police cornered and killed the head of al Qaeda operations in the kingdom last week. In another battle, fifteen Islamic terrorists were killed in a three day gun battle. The terrorists used women and children as human shields, which did little for their heroic reputation. The Saudis used special police for these operations. . . .

Saudi Arabia is the center of Islamic conservative thought that feeds al Qaeda, and its militant supporters throughout the Islamic world. Al Qaeda is very embarrassed by its inability to assert itself in Saudi Arabia, or any other nations in the Middle East. The violence in Iraq is mainly the result of the Sunni Arab minority refusing to stop resisting the overthrow of their government in 2003, not support for al Qaeda. The more al Qaeda tries, and fails, to achieve any of their goals (establishing an Islamic dictatorship), the more potential supporters doubt the viability of al Qaeda as a cause.

I think we’ve been way too tentative in putting pressure on the Saudis, but it’s nice to see some signs of progress on that front.

UPDATE: Jim Hoft emails: “Don’t forget Bangladesh! Since the 400+ bombs went off on Wednesday last week there have been anti-terror protests nearly every day!”

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