Fill in the blank: 2004 was the Year of _____. Many good possibilities suggest themselves: the Blog, the Downfall of Dan Rather and the MSM, the Shaming of the UN, Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, and the Return of the Silent Majority. After reading this excellent article by the Wall Street Journal editorial board, I have a more hopeful suggestion: 2004 was the turning point in the War on Terror.
We can only pray that this is true, but the signs are encouraging. With the passing of Arafat (an eventuality that once seemed sure to provoke spasms of unrest; instead, the reaction was muted and not at all cataclysmic), the much more agreeable Mahmoud Abbas may be able to finally move the Palestinians past the failed tactics of the past. One of his first public proclamations was that the use of violence did harm to the Palestinian image.
The prospect of removing George W. Bush had the Left in paroxysms of anticipation throughout much of the year; instead, voters decided that taking the terrorists on was worth more than the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction. In Australia, voters reached a similar conclusion and returned John Howard to power (though Spain chose to allow their electoral process to be dictated by violence).
In Iraq, the Americans finally realized that violence was the only appropriate response to the insurgent thugs and set the elections back on track by retaking Fallajuh. The insurgent cause was much harmed by the brutality of their tactics, immortalized by the beheading of a female humanitarian who opposed the war. The disgusting spectable of Abu Ghraib paled next to the medieval murder techniques captured on video for all the world to see on Arabic news sites. Those who had a low opinion of America in the first place latched onto the prison photos as confirmation of our immorality and imperialism; the rest of the rational world condemned the practices as unbecoming of the American tradition of humane treatment of prisoners.
Afghanistan held democratic elections, and women regained some standing in that long-oppressed society, though the scourge of drugs (and the War on Drugs) remains. In less than a month, the Iraqis will hold their own elections. Sharon has stood strong in Israel - his much-maligned 'Wall' and tough tactics are reducing the violence in the eye of the storm. Osama bin Laden is reduced to the issuing of occasional political commentary as he stays on the move, fearful of betrayal at every turn. Soon, the tyrant of Baghdad will face justice and certain execution for the horrible ordeals he forced on Iraqi society.
Some years stand out as the history books are written - 1989, 1968, 1939, 1914...and hopefully, soon, 2004. I haven't been this optimistic in a long time. Happy New Year...