Freedom's answer: In Afghanistan, where al Qaeda and its Taliban allies once kept women oppressed, a female parliamentary candidate can now share her literature with girls on their way to school.
September 11, 2006 -- IT was to be "The Mother of All Raids" (ghazvat al-gha zavat) that would bring down "The House of the Spider" as promised by the sheik in his mountain hideout.
The "raid" would terrify the "infidel" and hasten his demise just as the armies of Islam had destroyed the Persian and Byzantine empires with a series of ghazavat 14 centuries ago.
This time, the empire that would crumble under the weight of Islam's attack was the American "Great Satan," which had been running away from its enemies for decades. It had run away from Saigon, Tehran, Beirut, Mogadishu, Kohbar and Aden. Even when attacked in the heart of New York, its real capital city, it had done little more than nurse its chagrin with petulance.
History, however, is never written in advance. And this time the "cowardly infidel," far from running away, decided to return and hit back. And hit back hard. A war that was to see several sobriquets, the latest being "the war against Islamofascism," had begun. Within weeks, the sheik's hideout in Afghanistan had been invaded and its rulers sent scurrying in all directions.
ALL that was five years ago, when the people of the United States were jolted out of a decades-long slumber to realize there were individuals and organizations out there who regarded killing Americans as their sacred religious duty and a passport to paradise.
So, where are we now in this war? If this were a classical-style war, the United States would have no difficulty showing that it had scored a spectacular victory. It has succeeded in overthrowing two hostile regimes, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and forced several other states in the region to stop sheltering and financing the gahzis ("holy raiders"). Territory the size of Western Europe has been freed from two of the most vicious regimes in recent history.
At the same time, thousands of "holy raiders" have been killed or captured, and many more forced to hide in caves. Al Qaeda, the principal organization of the raiders, has been dismantled and six of its top 10 leaders killed or captured. It is not only their safe havens that the Islamofascist terrorists have lost; the network of financial, propaganda and logistical support they had created has also been partly dismantled.
Even more important is the gradual loss of support that the terrorists have experienced among Muslims in many parts of the world. Leading clerics from more than two dozen Muslim countries have come out with edicts declaring al Qaeda and its acolytes as heretics or worse. That position has been echoed in a number of Islamist political movements that had once provided al Qaeda and similar groups with ideological shelter whenever needed.
The process of disowning al Qaeda - known as bara'a ("exoneration") - is used by many radical Islamist movements as a means of rejecting those who produced the 9/11 raids. The process started with traditional Islamic personalities and circles that had hitherto looked upon al Qaeda and smaller movements with a mixture of awe and condescension. Once the ulema in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia had disowned al Qaeda, it was the turn of more openly political Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Gamaa Islamiyah (Islamic Society) to issue statements condemning terrorism in the name of faith.
Much of all that baraa'a stuff may well be little more than posturing designed to allay the fears of Muslim peoples while confusing the "infidel." Nevertheless, the fact that large chunks of Islam are trying to dissociate themselves from violence and terror is something that would have been unimaginable before 9/11.
ANY balance sheet for the past five years would show a positive bottom line for the United States in this war. But this does not mean that the war has been won. As the Islamofascists came under pressure in the heartland of Islam, they have tried to secure fresh spaces of activity in non-Muslim countries, especially in Western Europe and North America.
And, in Afghanistan, the Taliban are making a comeback in four southern provinces. Thanks to drug money and arms ferried to them from Pakistan and Iran, the groups around the fugitive Mullah Muhammad Omar have even set up a mini-emirate in some isolated villages.
In Iraq, the alliance of Islamofascists and Baathists is still on a killing spree in parts of Baghdad and four western provinces. Al Qaeda's ideological siblings are also fighting Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.
Everywhere, however, the tide has turned against them. Hundreds of terrorists have been killed or captured in those three countries in the past five years and many more put through re-education schemes to shed their fanatical view of faith and life in general.
And, despite numerous attempts, the Islamofascists have failed to produce another spectacular coup. Though tragic, the attacks on the transport networks in Madrid and London resembled poor remakes of 9/11, underlining al Qaeda's desperation rather than its ability to pursue its dream of global conquest. The fact that the Islamofascists have not succeeded in organizing a new raid against the United States in the past five years is a testimony both to American vigilance and the historic decline of al Qaeda-style terrorism.
FIVE years after 9/11, the United States looks less like the "House of the Spider" and more like a citadel of steel. And that is a result of the most important victory that free peoples have won against Islamofascism so far: the realization at the grassroots level of the danger that the modern world faces.
Despite efforts by postmodernists, multiculturalists and apologists of terror to explain (and explain away) Islamofascism, the overwhelming majority of free peoples, especially in the United States, realize that they are engaged in an existential struggle against an enemy that can and must be defeated both on the battleground and in the field of ideas.
The world is witnessing a new type of war in which none of the traditional causes of conflict such as territory, borders, natural resources and markets are the prize. The prize in this war is human freedom. And this is why, no matter how long this conflict takes, the enemies of freedom cannot win.
Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.