Reuters reports on a new International Institute for Strategic Studies report which makes clear just how "soft on defense" Bush is when it comes to actually defending Americans from terrorism: Al Qaeda has more than 18,000 militants ready to strike and the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq has accelerated recruitment to the ranks of Osama bin Laden's network, a leading London think-tank says. Al Qaeda's finances were in good order, its "middle managers" provided expertise to Islamic militants around the globe and bin Laden's drawing power was as strong as ever, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said on Tuesday. "Galvanised by Iraq if compromised by Afghanistan, al Qaeda remains a viable and effective network of networks," it said. The IISS said al Qaeda lost its base after the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001 but had since adapted to become more decentralised, "virtual" and invisible in more than 60 countries. "The Afghanistan intervention offensively hobbled but defensively benefited al Qaeda," it said. Karl Rove's brilliance as a strategist is in his willingness not simply to attack opponents on their perceived weaknesses but to charge head on at their perceived strengths - Ann Richards' tolerance, John Kerry's Vietnam experience - and fight to neutralize or poison them. Sometimes it's worked for Bush, and sometimes, it's backfired. But Kerry, following the trend of the Democratic party of late, has been overly shy about directly challenging Bush's record on the safety of this country.


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