IN April, al-Jazeera won the First Battle of Fallujah with lurid anti-American lies. This time around, the Middle- Eastern media continued to mill propaganda, but the fury was missing as Fallujah fell.
(The) military fought smarter, employing overwhelming force to finish the big job quickly. After one week of combat, only a few small terrorist gangs remain active in Fallujah — and they're being hunted down. Our forces wrapped up major combat operations before terrorist sympathizers in the media could have much effect.
But something even more important than martial skill was in play: We heard only pro-forma condemnations of our actions.
There was no outpouring of rage in the Arab world. Iraq's Shi'as remained quiet. The terrorists' attempts to shift the fight to other Iraqi cities didn't find much of an echo. Even Sunni Arabs complained of the threat posed to their homes — they didn't want their cities turned into little Fallujahs.
Terror has begun to defeat itself.
A significant shift of perception has begun in the Middle East. Even last spring, any attacks that tweaked America's nose or prevented civil progress in Iraq were cheered from Cairo to Karachi (in Europe, too). Then the terrorists began to make mistakes, as terrorists inevitably do.
The wave of videotaped beheadings appealed to the ultra-extremists in the Islamic world, but the great majority of Muslims were revolted. Not only were the ceremonial executions repugnant on a visceral level, they added to the growing global perception of Islam as a faith gone mad. The beheadings, which soon attracted copy-cats among the worst fanatics, brought shame on a great religion.
As the terrorists shifted their strikes to focus on unarmed Iraqis and the country's infrastructure, the Saudi royal family, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and even Syria's Baby Assad began to grasp that the madness in Iraq might be a preview of their own national futures. If terrorists triumphed, the Americans could go home. But the Arabs are home already. A victory for terror would replicate itself across the region, creating chaos.
The terrorists are losing the battle for hearts and minds, as well as the struggle for the future of Islam. That doesn't mean that the United States will suddenly be loved in the Middle East, only that terrorists will have ever more difficulty finding a refuge or new sources of support.
The struggle will be long. Blows against America will still be cheered. Al-Jazeera and the BBC will continue to broadcast lies. But more and more Muslims will recognize that "Islamic" terror violates the fundamental teachings of Mohammed.
Tactically, the terrorists' worst enemy is still the American soldier. Strategically, the forces of terror have begun to defeat themselves.