George Bush certainly would not like to hear that he has been beaten by Osama bin Laden, particularly when it's one of the country's most esteemed al Qaeda experts drawing the conclusion.
Much to his dismay, Peter Bergen lays out the case that the Bush Administration has bumbled its way through misstep after mistake since September 11 in a lengthy piece in the latest New Republic.
The basic outlines of the case against the Bush Administration are familiar, and Bergen gives a comprehensive overview of the actions (or inaction) that have allowed al Qaeda to score points against the US.
* The failure to capture bin Laden in Tora Bora, where all indications were he had holed up in December 2001 as the US military bombarded the mountain range from the air.
* The failure to direct adequate resources to thoroughly secure and re-build Afghanistan--mainly a result of getting distracted by Iraq.
* Invading Iraq succeeded in "creating a base for the terrorist organization where none had existed before, energizing jihadists around the word, and confirming for many Muslims bin Laden's contention that the United States was at war with Islam."
* Maintaining airtight support for close friend and ally Pervez Musharraf, while al Qaeda continues to enjoy safe haven inside Pakistan.
* Guantanamo and the Bush Administration's re-defining of "enhanced interrogation techniques" has harmed US moral standing in the world, and the methods have failed to produce any quality intelligence, as is generally the case when a subject is put under extreme duress for interrogations.
While Bergen does give Bush a positive acknowledgment for some protective measures put in place since 9/11, he does not give the Administration the credit that the President gives himself for preventing another major terrorist attack against the US.
In Bergen's view, the integration of Muslim-Americans into mainstream American culture and communities has given the US an edge over would-be attackers that is not enjoyed in many European countries, where Islamic communities tend to be more socially isolated and financially insecure.
For America, then, the threat does not come from within, but rather from abroad. And, while Bush can take some credit for measures that have made it harder for foreign terrorists to get into the country, he must take the blame for the fact that his policies--in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Guantánamo--have greatly increased the pool of jihadist terrorists around the world. Since September 11, we have largely managed to block these jihadists from entering. But no country, no matter how vigilant, no matter how powerful, can hope to lock out every last member of an ever-multiplying, ever-more-sophisticated gang of trained killers forever. Which is why our best bet--and maybe our only hope--in the war on terrorism is to stop Al Qaeda long before it gets here.