WAR ON TERROR: PROGRESS REPORT

David Horowitz makes an interesting observation:

Imagine the date is Sept. 12, 2001. Ask yourself this question: Are you willing to bet that two years will pass and there will not be another terrorist attack on American soil?

I will wager that there is not one person reading this column who would have made that bet two years ago.

There is only one reason for this relative security that Americans enjoy. It is not that the terrorists have given up their violent agendas or their hatred for us. They have not. It is not because U.S. borders are secure or because U.S. internal security systems have been successfully overhauled.

There is one reason — and one reason alone — that Americans have been safe for the almost two years since the September 11 attacks.

That reason is the aggressive war that President Bush and the U.S. military have waged against international terrorism and its “Axis of Evil.” The war on terrorism has been fought in the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, and Baghdad instead of Washington and New York. By taking the battle to the enemy camp, by making the terrorists the hunted instead of the hunters, Mr. Bush and the U.S. military have kept Americans safe.

I’d quibble a bit on this first assertion, in that the anthrax incidents in late 2001 were likely caused by terrorism. But it is true that most of us would have expected another violent attack by now. That the Bush Administration’s efforts are the reason for this relative calm in unprovable, but plausible. Clearly, the aggressive move against al Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan had to have a disruptive effect. But there were lulls between the several al Qaeda attacks in the pre-9/11 period, too.

Horowitze goes on to argue that Iraq is a natural extension of this policy:

If Iraq can be secured and become a U.S. ally, then Syrian terrorism and Iranian terrorism and Palestinian terrorism will have no place to hide. American pressure on terrorists everywhere will be dramatically enhanced. If, on the other hand, the United States withdraws in defeat, then terrorism will flourish again in Baghdad, Basra and Tikrit, but also in Damascus, Tehran and Ramallah.

The way to think about the war on terrorism is to ask yourself who is supporting Mr. Bush and the U.S. military in this life and death engagement, and who is not?

Help is certainly not coming from the European nations who armed and then appeased Saddam Hussein and opposed the liberation of Iraq.

Far worse, with exception of fading candidates like Joe Lieberman and John Edwards, it is certainly not coming from the leaders of the Democratic Party, who from the moment Baghdad was liberated have with ferocious intensity attacked the credibility of the U.S. commander-in-chief, the justification for our mission in Iraq and the ability of our forces to prevail.

In this mission of sabotage, no political figure has stooped as low as Al Gore. In the wake of the war that went spectacularly well — the swiftest, most casualty-free liberation of a nation in human history — Al Gore has accused Mr. Bush of deceit and cynical manipulation of the facts with the purpose of misleading the American public and sacrificing U.S. soldiers. By linking these accusations to the Florida election recount, he and other Democrats have implied that the war was merely an instrument of a partisan plot to deprive them of their claim to the White House.

I tend to agree that a stable, comparatively democratic Iraq will go a long way toward stabilizing the region, and thus toward quelling Islamic terrorism, down the road. It is, however, a point with which reasonable people can disagree. And, certainly, Afghanistan-style raids against specific terrorist groups’ headquarters might be more effacious than this indirect route, anyway. Implying that the opponents of the war, whether our European allies or prominent Democrats, are pro-terrorism is rather silly and pointless, regardless.

FILED UNDER: 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. Ryan says:

    Did nobody tell this guy we are supposed to be liberating this country and giving it back to its people, rather than ‘securing’ Iraq as an ally?
    A democratic Iraq may bode well for democracy in the rest of the region, but it’s going to take a lot of US arm-twisting to turn Iraqi opinion against the rest of the arab world.
    The real test of this war and of USD intentions will come if and when the Iraqis democratically elect someone with an anti-US agenda.

  2. Kevin Drum says:

    Um, there were no significant (successful) attacks by foreign terrorists on our soil in the entire decade before 9/11, either. What’s more, just as before 9/11, there have been plenty of al-Qaeda attacks in other countries since 9/11. In other words, there’s been virtually no change at all.

    Horowitz is being absurd. If a terrorist attack occurred tomorrow, would he change his mind about the success of Bush’s terrorist policy?

    James, you can’t really have taken this seriously, can you?

  3. James Joyner says:

    Kevin,

    Maybe the post wasn’t that clear; I think Horowitz radically overstates and oversimplifies things.

    The first WTC attack was perpetrated by foreign terrorists, and there were certainly a lot of attacks on U.S. assets by al Qaeda during the preceding decade.

    Clearly, the destruction of the Taliban regime and its support for al Qaeda has had some effect, although the Iraq invasion has also created some attacks on targets there.

  4. Matthew says:

    David Horowitz tends to get a little carried away when making his points. He may be a conservative now, but he’s still prone to the kind of emotionalism that mars the work of his former fellow travelers like Bob Scheer, though not nearly as much. I think Horowitz’s claim that Dems are objectively pro-terrorist is a mirror of the Deanite mantra that Bush has made us less safe now than when he became president. They’re absurd claims, but that’s what you get when you’re dealing from a purely partisan deck.

    If you set aside the vitriol of the column, his “not another attack” premise is a good one, and something Bush can take some credit for, even if it’s a somewhat hollow boast, much like Clinton’s oft-repeated “there’s not one Russian missile pointed at the US” line. But if Bush wants to use a line like that, he’d do well to thank the men and women of the armed forces for that accomplishment and steer well clear of taking credit personally.