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.

Highlights:

  • 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?

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. LJD says:

    “liberal Center for American Progress”- ’nuff said.

    These responses read like a page out of the liberal attack-the-president-by-claiming-everything-is-a-failure play book. Certainly these responses can be linked to the tone of network news broadcasts as well.

    They should have asked questions more along the line of “Do you know what the hell you’re talking about?” Since many Americans, when questioned in such polls, do not know even the most basic facts concerning American history or geography.

  2. Hal says:

    First, it’s quite bizarre to simultaneously believe the Iraq War is making us less safe … and yet not find stabilizing Iraq particularly important.

    Perhaps they realize it’s either a completely lost cause in that there is literally nothing we can do to change that fate. Sometimes when you screw the pooch, regardless of how important it is to unscrew that pooch, you are powerless to do so. Saying it’s important doesn’t magically make it possible to do anything about it.

    Why? Are they different experts?

    Even if the situation hasn’t “substantively changed”, it’s pretty damn bad. And just maybe if things are operating at the same level of suckiness, that this is a very bad development in and of itself. So, the experts thought things were bad in the past, but salvageable. But now, given that things haven’t substantively changed, that this is a very, very bad sign.

    how do these people define success in “the war on terrorism”?

    Wow, this pretty much comes to the entire heart of the matter. It’s not just these guys, but pretty much everyone else. So far, it’s essentially been what kind of millitary victories we have against states. Something that hasn’t done jack against terrorism and, in fact, has created more terrorists than there was before.

    Just to sum up, we have a raging civil war (okay, it’s more than a civil war and civil war doesn’t capture all the complexities, but it’s at least a civil war), a pending Islamic theocracy aligned with (if not a puppet of) Iran. We have more terrorists than we ever did before. The Iraq war is a booming recruitment campaign for terrorists. We have a generation of people who will hate us for several generations. And this is just Iraq. I guess we’ve pretty much forgotten about Afghanistan, the Taliban and the world’s largest bumper crop of Opium.

    That’s a good thing, right?

    Well, if the decline isn’t because it has metastasized and evolved under our noses, sure. But all indications are that it has. They’ve become irrelevant because newer and more numerous groups have sprung up to take over the mantle.

    That’s not a good thing.

  3. Anderson says:

    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.

    The quoted portion, at least, merely says that NK is *more* of a priority than stabilizing Iraq (impossible) or Afghanistan (difficult & w/ lower return).

    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.

    Hasn’t gotten better, but more importantly, it’s now become even more evident how FUBAR Iraq is; if you take into account its possible role into sucking us into a war with Iran, the 41% seems plausible — tho still a minority, recall.

    These “survey said!” pieces are provocative of discussion at best, of course.

  4. G.A.Phillips says:

    Could it be that we are fighting half the world and you Libs are supporting them? It is a funny thing to see you gimps commenting on your own propaganda as if it where real and meaningful debate.

  5. dom says:

    Yes, I agree with Anderson – if the survey allowed respondents to only choose ONE issue as the most important task, the responses make logical sense. It’s possible to believe that dealing with NK is the most important thing, while simultaneously believing that Iraq is also important.

    On the third point, I guess that the question is “less dangerous since when?” Given that the nuclearization of NK has been an issue since before the Iraq War started, the war can then be perceived as making the world less safe (within a certain time period) without dismissing the fact that the nuclear potential of NK has also made the world less safe.

  6. Hal says:

    Could it be that we are fighting half the world and you Libs are supporting them?

    Yep, glad to see red baiting and the flame McCarthyism is still kept burning on the right.

    And you guys wonder why you lose elections.

  7. LJD says:

    I’m not interested in flame wars, or commenting on comments made here. But you have to look at comments made by many in the anti-war left.

    First there were similarities with OBL and Zawahiri, now with Ahmadinejad and his foreign minister.

    Sometimes it pays to reflect, and perhaps take a different perspective from what you think you “know”. If I found myself talking like that, I would have trouble sleeping at night.

  8. Anderson says:

    comments made by many in the anti-war left.

    Whatever.

  9. Hal says:

    First, if we’re fighting a war with half the world, then we’re going to lose. Sorry, but unless you’re willing to kill them all by raining down nuclear fire, then there is simply no way we’re going to win.

    Second, similarities with OBL and Sawahiri and now with Ahmadinejad? Okay, let’s just step back a sec and look at who was at the holocaust denial fest? Was that David Duke I heard on NPR? Yes, yes, it was. Shall I now use David Duke as a proxy for all the right? That’d be silly.

    The “left” you’re talking about is made up of exactly 20 people – total. They are wacked out people who think Chavez rulz.

    It does nothing but shut down any serious debate to even bring this whole “similarities” thing up. I’m sure just a bit of digging we can find a heck of a lot of ugly bed fellows who have supported preventative war in the past. So I guess, given the standard, reflecting on similarities there might keep one awake at night as well.

    The fact is, it’s completely ridiculous to think this way. Yes, one should worry about what one says, but hey, we’re the only country which has used a nuclear bomb in anger. Should I worry about doing that again? If we’re at war with half the world then I think we’re going to have to do things that are far far worse than anything I’ve ever seen contemplated before.

    Again, if I found myself talking like that I’d have trouble sleeping at night.

  10. LJD says:

    Whatever.

    Must be irrefutable.

  11. dom says:

    Must be irrefutable.

    LJD, how do you expect Anderson to respond to your total non-sequitor of a comment? Despite the fact that you didn’t provide any examples in your post, I’m willing to stipulate that there are fringe members of the “anti-war left” who have said despicable things. I’m sure you’d agree that the right side of the spectrum has similar fringe members. Can we now move on to a discussion of the actual post?

  12. Anderson says:

    In my legal work, I’ve discovered the phenomenon of attorneys who make such incredibly stupid, off-the-wall arguments, that there’s not actually a case on point to refute ’em, because nothing that dumb ever got to an appellate court before.

    Doubtless, those attorneys think of their arguments as “irrefutable.”

  13. carpeicthus says:

    I can’t stand pacifist leftists like Osama bin Laden.

  14. Perception becomes reality.

  15. LJD says:

    No, not fringe elements of the anti-war left; elected representatives and accomplished journalists.

    Their anti-war rhetoric: that we are failing and cannot succeed; that we are the aggressor; that those killing American soldiers are justified in doing so (i.e. hypotheticals including comments like “What would YOU do if you were invaded?”) is what very closely resembles that coming from Bin Laden, and Ahmadinejad.

    My brief comment in response to Andersen’s was a joke. You guys need to lighten up.

    But the fact of the matter is, the parallels are out there , and they have been discussed on the news and in blogs. I don’t have time for the google- you do it.

    While you’re off writing your fricken dissertation about how stupid I am, I will sit here wit the satisfaction of knowing that I’m right. You- blinded by your politics- in total denial that your Bush bashing has anything but the intended influence on the war.