Jewish World Review March 18, 2004 / 25 Adar, 5764

Robert Stewart

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They can not be sated — only stopped | The surprise election results in Spain still fresh on their minds, terrorists on Wednesday again tried their hand at forcing coalition withdrawal from Iraq. The attack on the Jabal Lebanon Hotel, like the rush hour bombs on Madrid trains, was aimed at changing policy and authority through bombs rather than ballots. And if they succeed with bombings in Iraq-as they arguably did with the bombings in Madrid last week-the Baghdad explosion will be the template for cities and nations elsewhere.

A successful rebirth of the Iraqi nation is perhaps the greatest threat to anti-democratic efforts in the Middle East, and they've made every attempt to derail reconstruction efforts. By crowding stability and safety, they demonstrate to other nations the dangers of reaching for freedom and rejecting the oppression and fear of extremism. But if the coalition withdraws and abandons future efforts in the region, it will be cold comfort for Iraqis: The vacuum would be quickly filled only by violence, a return to Hussein-like oppression, and a permanent barrier to freedom.

Wednesday's car bomb in Baghdad should serve as a stark reminder of what Iraq can expect if America and coalition forces leave Iraq in response to violence. Contrary to rhetoric on the campaign trail and in parts of Europe, leaving Iraq now will leave Iraqis to the men who've killed, there, and in nations around the globe. It will leave burgeoning democracy and freedom in the region to the whim of men who are not satisfied with one victory, or with the fall of one nation. They can not be sated-only stopped.

Terrorists aren't waiting for an excuse; they're not waiting for elections; they're not looking for American occupiers to blame. They value only death and the ability to spread fear-and as often as possible. It is only through robust efforts of both law enforcement and military forces that the majority of attacks are prevented and the spread is slowed. If anti-terror forces were to withdraw, nearly every attack would succeed; the newly constituted Iraqi security services would simply be overwhelmed, and eventually defeated and abandoned.

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There is no doubt that much remains to be done in Iraq before the nation is stable enough to withstand the interference of those who wish to impose their violence. But there is hope: Each new success in Iraq-and there have been many-dampens the effect of the terrorists and strengthens the resolve of the freed. Though it doesn't often make the news when a new school is built, a new hospital is staffed or electricity is available on where it previously was unavailable, these victories are common in Iraq.

To date, the terrorists have delayed-but failed to deter-reconstruction and the recruitment of Iraqis to local security forces. The reconstruction efforts in Iraq will continue to set the Iraqis on a path to peace, economic prosperity and newfound liberties. But it will also impede the cause of tyrants and terrorists by spreading the growth of opportunity and democracy throughout the region. There will be continued setbacks and continued attempts to remove security forces.

The Iraqis have been free less than a year. Yet in that short time they have already signed an interim constitution, are building their military, and civil defense forces-many of which responded to the bombing Wednesday with equipment provided by coalition forces-and in less than four months will have autonomous control of their own nation for the first time in decades. All this despite near-daily attacks on both Iraqis and their defenders. They are not a people easily given to defeat.

If the resolve of coalition forces is similarly strong, Iraqis will have a very real chance of success. Random violence can't stop them from realizing a nation of their own. Only giving up can do that.

JWR contributor Robert Stewart, a former Army intelligence analyst, is now a writer based in Washington, D.C. Comment by clicking here.


03/09/04: Is Iraq a success one year later? Ask the president of the Iraqi Governing Council
02/13/04: Kerry swings at Bush, hits Clinton
02/03/04: The coming anti-lobbyist lobby?
12/30/03: Bush Doctrine, often derided, is paying dividends in peace
11/24/03: Isolationism does not breed immunity
11/10/03: President Bush, like Eisenhower before him, is signaling the beginning of a new epoch
10/21/03: Is this war being won? You bet, just don't ask the congressman with the embarrassingly bad timing

© 2004, Robert Stewart