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Bush's Speech

6:41 PM, Mar 19, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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"The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around -- it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror. For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al Qaeda rallied Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al Qaeda out. In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his murderous network. And the significance of this development cannot be overstated. The terrorist movement feeds on a sense of inevitability, and claims to rise on the tide of history. The accomplishments of the surge in Iraq are exposing this myth and discrediting the extremists. When Iraqi and American forces finish the job, the effects will reverberate far beyond Iraq's borders. Osama bin Laden once said: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." By defeating al Qaeda in Iraq, we will show the world that al Qaeda is the weak horse.

It's true that the Awakening in Anbar represented the first time that Muslims violently rejected the totalitarian ideology of al Qaeda. One can debate endlessly whether the success of the surge created room for the Awakening or whether the success of the Awakening created room for the surge, but the result is the same. And we have routed al Qaeda from most of the country--the final blow is likely to come soon in Mosul.

The Israeli experience of the last few years offers a real lesson here. They pulled out of Lebanon--unilaterally and not out of military necessity--and Hezbollah claimed victory. More than that, Hezbollah became the vanguard of global jihad. Likewise in Gaza. The Israelis withdrew--unilaterally and not out of military necessity--and Hamas claimed victory. More than that, they overthrew Fatah and radicalized the Palestinian population (really, they are more radical).

If we pull out of Iraq, al Qaeda will claim victory--that much is certain. It will also grow stronger--who would stop it? This is an intolerable outcome. Five years after the initial invasion, nearly 4,000 U.S. troops have died, thousands more have been injured, and much work remains to be done. But it is foolish to think that things couldn't get worse if U.S. troops were to leave, and there is every reason to believe that U.S. troops are finally on the path to victory.