Why we’re losing the war on terror.
By Chris Freind
In the 12 years since the 9/11 attacks, thousands of Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice, and trillions have been spent fighting overseas battles. But the hard truth is that the United States has thus far lost the foreign “War on Terror.”
What makes the sin mortal is that this was eminently preventable. But the failure to learn from history, combined with a lack of foresight and common sense, have allowed true victory to slip away. And in true bipartisan spirit, both parties have been equally incompetent.
Can America turn the tide? Of course, but since Washingtonians keep coming up with “new” ideas to solve our old Middle Eastern problems — code speak for recycled policy failures — it’s more likely that history will keep repeating itself, to the detriment of the West and the delight of radical fundamentalists.
Let’s review the most pronounced failures in post-9/11 foreign policy:
No Energy Independence: The most incomprehensible mistake after 9/11 was President Bush’s failure to understand what precipitated the attack, which left him unable to solve the problem. While he should have gone after bin Laden and the Taliban, the ultimate goal should have been withdrawing troops from the volatile Middle East — there because of America’s huge dependence on foreign oil — whose presence infuriated radical Muslims.
Doing so would obviously require America to once and for all become energy independent, easily accomplished by opening up America’s vast petroleum reserves, including the ANWR in Alaska, and lifting the offshore drilling moratorium imposed by the first President Bush. With an approval rating in the ’90s and substantial Republican majorities in Congress, winning the day on these crucial issues would have been a layup for George W. Bush, had he tried.
But he didn’t.
Iraq Quagmire: So Bush and Dick Cheney, both oilmen, instead chose to invade Iraq, a country that hadn’t attacked America, nor had any involvement in 9/11. Oil prices skyrocketed — bankrupting countless American companies and throwing the economy into chaos — while Big Oil made record profits. Thousands of American soldiers lost their lives, and hundreds of billions exited the Treasury, all for a war where “victory” was never defined.
Throwing fuel on the fire, the promise of Iraqi oil revenue rebuilding Iraq was a bust, and American taxpayers forked over $60 billion for that reconstruction, while American infrastructure continued to deteriorate at home.
So how’s Iraq doing after the American “liberation?’ Almost 80 percent of its oil now flows to China, creating a powerful Baghdad-Beijing partnership. And sectarian violence is everywhere, with 3,000 Iraqis killed in just the last few months, including 1,000 in July, the deadliest month since 2008. That chaos has allowed Iraq to become a haven for America’s enemies, which it was not prior to invasion. As a comparison, when Saddam Hussein was in control, there were virtually no car bombs nor terror attacks in Iraq.
So if what we’re seeing now is “victory,” what the hell is defeat?
Afghanistan: While hitting the Taliban and hunting Osama bin Laden were appropriate, we have stayed in-country far too long with no clear objectives. Now, American troops can’t even operate alongside Afghan forces because “friendly Afghanis” have routinely opened fire on our troops. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Enabling Iran: The same neo-conservatives who led us to invade Iraq are back at it, demanding a strike on Iran to stop it from developing nuclear weapons.
The irony would be comical if not so tragic.
Any guesses why Iran didn’t have a bona fide WMD program before America engaged in Iraqi regime change? Simple. Iran and Iraq were mortal enemies, and their ongoing mutual hatred kept both countries in check; neither developed WMD’s because they were wholly consumed with killing each other.
But ignorant American leaders broke that stalemate in the name of “democracy” when they took out Hussein, destroying the critical balance of power. By taking out Iran’s archenemy, the U.S. gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad all the time and resources he needed to develop WMDs. Brilliant.
Democracy For Radicals: A constant in Middle Eastern countries is that large majorities view America with extreme contempt. Common sense tells us that, in a democracy, these people will always vote for fundamentalist governments reflecting that vitriolic mindset. So why do we constantly push that concept?
Democracy simply doesn’t work in many countries, and would certainly be counter-productive to American interests if it took hold in the Middle East. Yet president after president pursues that unwise goal, usually through regime change. The fact that it hasn’t worked should be a sign to change course, but instead, we continue full-steam ahead.
Iraq, Libya, Egypt and even Afghanistan have proven to be disastrous “experiments,” yet obtuse leaders like John McCain now want leadership change in Syria, despite no idea who would assume power. At least when the U.S. orchestrated the Iranian coup in 1953, it knew it was installing the Shah as leader. Since Assad is fighting al-Qaeda-affiliated Syrians, the odds of seeing a leader who doesn’t despise America? Less than zero.
In less than two decades, the United States has invaded two Middle Eastern nations and bombed seven, with plans to strike an eighth and possibly a ninth (Iran). Trillions have been spent and thousands of lives lost, yet radical fundamentalism keeps rising while America’s credibility continues to diminish.
It is not too late to right the ship, but it will take immense political will. A good starting point would be to reflect on the tragedy of 12 years ago, and remember the forgotten message. Eliminate dependence on the Middle East by becoming energy independent, stop playing policeman to the world, and start taking care of the ones who matter most: our own.
The thousands who gave their lives that day, and those who fell defending their honor, deserve no less.