Experts Say U.S. Losing War on Terror
Foreign Policy magazine has conducted a survey in conjunction with the liberal Center for American Progress of “more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy experts—Republicans and Democrats alike,” dubbing it The Terrorism Index.
- 75 percent say the United States is losing the war on terror
- 81 percent say the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans
- 82 percent say they expect another 9/11-scale attack on U.S. soil at some point in the next decade
- 41 percent identify the Iraq War as principal reason why the world is becoming more dangerous – more than triple the number of those that named Islamic extremism or any other cause
- 88 percent saying that the war has had a negative impact on U.S. national security
- 64 percent believe that the war in Afghanistan has advanced U.S. national security goals and 70 percent support sending more troops
- 26 percent ranked denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula as the most important task facing U.S. foreign-policymakers, more important than stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, creating a national missile defense, or convincing Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions
- 34 percent say al Qaeda has grown stronger in the past year while a majority say that about Hamas (56 percent), Hezbollah (91 percent), and the Taliban (83 percent)
Without more specific information about the participants (especially, their political affiliations) it’s difficult to assess this fully. On its face, though, I’d note some problems.
First, it’s quite bizarre to simultaneously believe the Iraq War is making us less safe (which it almost certainly is in the short term) and yet not find stabilizing Iraq particularly important. Similarly, it’s odd not to find stabilizing Afghanistan a priority while simultaneously arguing for stepping up our troop presence there.
Second, the situation in Iraq has not substantially deteriorated in the last six months. Yet, the opinions of the surveyed experts have swung wildly. In the June 2006 report, only 28 percent thought the war was the principal reason why the world is becoming more dangerous; now it’s 41 percent. Why? Are they different experts?
Third, isn’t there a major disconnect between citing the Iraq War as the biggest factor in the world becoming less safe and citing Korea’s nuclearization as the biggest threat? Given that the latter preceded the former, the causal relationship would seem tenuous. (Indeed, if anything, DPRK nuclearization was a powerful–if ultimately wrong–argument for war in Iraq.)
More fundamentally, how do these people define sucess in “the war on terrorism”? How did they come to an overwhelming consensus we are losing it? Losing against the anti-government/anti-Coalition forces in Iraq? That I buy. But terrorism generally? Several regional groups are in the ascendancy, to be sure, but Al Qaeda, the principal face of said war, is clearly in decline. That’s a good thing, right?