Corner-Turning on Terror

The end of summer will mark two years since the Sept. 11 attacks. The Bush administration, despite the capture of many Al Qaeda leaders and the ouster of regimes in Afghanistan and then Iraq, paints the campaign against terrorism as a struggle with no end in sight. Perhaps it is.

Yet it's worth asking, even at the risk of simply predicting the future by projecting the past into it, if recent events in the anti-terror campaign signal a tipping point.

Only future historians can spot that Battle-of-Midway moment that will mark the beginning of the end of Al Qaeda. But Americans in the present can also watch for those moments when, as Aristotle wrote in the Poetics, "things come about contrary to expectation but because of one another."

Here are a few events in the past week alone that, when added to all else in the war on terrorism, might indicate a cascade of victories to come:

• After removing Iraq's threat to its neighbors, the US announced it will remove troops from the Islamic holy land of Saudi Arabia, thus ending a key irritant that motivates Al Qaeda.

• Syria, under US pressure, says it will close the offices of three terrorist groups in Damascus.

• The Israel-Palestinian peace process has resumed after Yasser Arafat was forced to relinquish some power and President Bush released a "road map" for a diplomatic solution to yet another problem that drives Al Qaeda.

• Pakistan, a breeding ground for many terrorists, appears to have curbed the flow of militants into Indian-held Kashmir enough to allow India to announce it will resume full diplomatic relations.

Not bad for one week. And proof that it pays to stand up to terrorists and their sponsors fearlessly. Terror, after all, relies on fear to persist. Erode that fear with victories, and terror starts to evaporate quickly.

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