Winning or losing?

A general analysis of the War on Terror in the context of the tenth anniversary of 11th September is worth recounting.

James Traub argues that almost everything the US and its allies did was wrong over the last ten years. Traub says that “I was ‘a 55-45er’ on the Iraq war: for it, by a hair. I wrote a book about democracy promotion that sharply criticized President George W. Bush’s Freedom Agenda, but was still, in retrospect, too optimistic”.

He continues saying that “The 9/11 attacks persuaded Bush and his top aides that the United States could no longer afford to ignore failed or autocratic states that germinated terrorism”, yet adds that “The insight was correct, but Bush quickly discovered the limits of the American capacity to shape countries for the better. In 2005, he tried to push Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to hold free and fair elections. But when Mubarak realized that such elections would bring the opposition to power, he cracked down hard”.

He complains that the problem with this is that “abandoning the Freedom Agenda out of fear that it might bring Islamists to power” yet almost within the same breath adds that ” the truth is that the United States lacked the instruments to produce the change it sought”. This is however incorrect, the Bush administration did hardly anything other than have a quiet word in President Mubarak’s ear. It could have halted the billions of dollars of economic aid, imposed trade sanctions and so much more.

He argues, discussing the Obama administration that Obama was “convinced that Bush had effectively poisoned the idea of democracy promotion, put a stop both to the grandiose language and to the impossible expectations it aroused. In the summer of 2009 he was criticized for holding his tongue when the Iranian regime rigged an election to block reformers from wining seats. But Obama understood that U.S. interference might do more harm than good”. Again what we see is what has made US foreign policy so successful, the ability to do both soaring ideas and lofty rhetoric but also cold hard pragmatic realism that got the United States to where it is today. Similarly, he adds that Obama reluctantly accepted a counter insurgency strategy. Traub adds however that this isn’t working. He says that ” Classic counterterrorism tactics have done a very effective job of wiping out Taliban leaders, but the Taliban keep regenerating thanks to the Afghan government’s scant legitimacy”. This is partly due to the lack of security and partly due to the massive, endemic corruption at all levels of Afghani society.

On the other side of the argument is Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CN). Senator Lieberman says that “response to the threat of Islamist terrorism since 9/11 as an overreaction”. Senator Lieberman notes that to continue along this path of thought would be not only wrong but very dangerous.

He argues, correctly that “the core of the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks, and the broader challenge of Islamist extremism they revealed, has been necessary and justified”. Although it is a counterfactual and therefore impossible to confirm he adds that “Had we not done so, it is very likely we would not have the luxury today of debating whether we overreacted to the threat, because many more Americans would have been victims of this enemy”.

Senator Lieberman says that “Americans have proven adaptive and dogged in our prosecution of this fight, pioneering new capabilities and tactics — from stunningly precise unmanned drones to a brilliant new counterinsurgency doctrine — that have enabled our forces to outflank our enemies in this very unconventional war. Simply put, in the 10 years since 9/11, the U.S. has built the most capable and lethal counterterrorism forces in human history”. Not only is this praise well deserved but bodes well for the future. He adds that “As a result, al Qaeda’s senior leadership in the tribal areas of Pakistan has been badly damaged. Its affiliate in Iraq, which came dangerously close to seizing control of that country, has been gutted”.

Lieberman adds crucially that ” U.S. leaders instead saw the war as an ideological struggle within Islam, waged between an extremist minority that seeks to enslave the world and a moderate Muslim majority”. Indeed as has been stated here before, the terrorists that carry out these attacks are not real followers of Islam, a beautiful religion with a billion adherents, rather they have distorted it into something truely statanic.

A mea culpa is then issued with “the terrible abuses committed at Abu Ghraib and the broader mismanagement of the Iraq war prior to the surge, to name two. But as we look back over our actions over the past 10 years, a lot more went right than wrong”. He says that America is winning the war but the world is still a dangerous place, despite what most of Europe thinks, and  “although Osama bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda’s core has been severely weakened, its regional affiliates are on the rise“.

Senator Lieberman rightly cautions against complancey regarding the troublesome Pakistani armed forces who “maintains ties to violent Islamist extremist groups such as the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which in turn are in league with al Qaeda “. He goes on to mention Iran “whose nuclear program is speeding forward  and whose leaders, it was recently disclosed, have for years had their own secret relationship with al Qaeda, facilitating the flow of terrorists and funds across Iranian territory”.

He concludes that “current geopolitical realities do not justify a claim of victory or a sense of closure or complacency about the worldwide war that Islamist extremists continue waging against us. This is not a moment when the United States can unilaterally declare a holiday from history” as some would declare.

What is true is that the tide is turning in the favour of the United States and its allies.

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One Response to “Winning or losing?”

  1. Another battle won « Order and Tradition Says:

    […] al-Awlaki has been announced. AQAP will be seriously weakened but the war is not over but it is being won. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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