Are we winning the War on Terror? The easy answer is to say we are winning it since we haven't been attacked since 9/11 – even though our one true ally (Britain) has. Although it's great we've avoided another attack in the past few years, I fear our actions worldwide (or lack thereof) since 9/11, have endangered our country more than ever before.
First of all, let's evaluate America's progression from 9/11 to present day. Do we feel any safer today than we did back then?
Before 9/11, Osama bin Laden was at large; today, he is still at large. Before 9/11, the air cargo on airplanes went unchecked before every flight, just as it does today. Before 9/11, roughly 95 percent of items shipped into America in coastal areas went unchecked, just like today. Before 9/11, security at power plants was minimal at best, where any ordinary citizen could freely walk up to a power plant – just like today.
After 9/11, countries developing nuclear programs were overlooked (namely Iran and North Korea) for a nation that had no Weapons of Mass Destruction and posed no threat to us whatsoever. Before 9/11, we were not in any war, so our military defense was available and we had people excitedly joining the armed forces. Since 9/11, we have become overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan that we are now vulnerable to an attack, and fewer people are joining the armed forces than pre-9/11, much fewer. And after 9/11, when we were looking to our government for any kind of security and protection, we were told to buy duct tape and plastic wrapping to cover our houses with in case of a terrorist attack. Wow. Not exactly the defense against terrorism I had in mind.
Unfortunately, a big part of the War on Terror is the war in Iraq. At best, we are looking at another decade of insurgency battles against our troops in Iraq. George Casey, commander of coalition forces, put it best when he warned the Senate that, "the average counterinsurgency in the 20th century has lasted nine years. There's no reason that we should believe that the insurgency in Iraq will take any less time," (Washington Post). It'd be one thing if a left-wing propagandist was saying this, but the commander of coalition forces in Iraq? You can't argue with the truth.
What we have done in Iraq is created what we thought was there when we went in: a safe haven for terrorists. Since we've overtaken the country, we failed to control the borders so that anyone who hates America can come in and have free shots at our troops. This single-handedly increased the insurgency we are now fighting, and the situation has escalated into a quasi-civil war. Factions of people who have quarreled for centuries are not going to make peace overnight (and by overnight I mean decades). Even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conceded this when she admitted, "It's not conceivable that the Sunnis and the Shias are going to overcome hundreds of years of differences within a matter of a couple of years." Duh.
The fact is we're headed towards a civil war in Iraq, which means the entire region could change to al-Queda-type, Islamic extremism – and this is the big worry. If this ever happens, then the war in Iraq will have created more terrorism than it solved, and it appears to be headed that way. Although people in this region have always hated Americans, it has never been to the extent that they do now. After all, we obliterated an Islamic country, killed thousands of innocent civilians in the process and tortured inmates along the way, so of course we're hated more than ever. Since the Iraqi invasion, President Bush has become a poster board for recruiting terrorists worldwide. I think it is fair to say the war in Iraq has fueled the hatred of America and only made terrorism worse on a global scale.
Earlier I asked if you felt safer now than you did pre-9/11. Think broadly about both the domestic actions (and inactions) our government has taken, as well as the international actions such as Iraq and Afghanistan (and inactions of Iran and North Korea). With Bin Laden still at large, many domestic security issues still ignored, credible nuclear threats around the world overlooked, a military overextended in wars they might not even win and a region of the world increasing their already pure hatred for us while heading toward sheer chaos, it is hard to say things are going well in the War on Terror. And what is our government's suggestion for protecting ourselves against a terrorist attack? Duct tape and plastic wrapping to cover our houses in. Unbelievable.
I realize we haven't been attacked since 9/11, but is this because of adequate defenses by our government or a lack of attempts to attack us by our enemy? Moreover, let's not forget it was eight years between the first and second World Trade Center attacks, so it's not like we're preventing attacks on a daily basis. Who knows if we've even prevented one since 9/11.
The fact of the matter is that no matter how successful we think we are, the War on Terror will never end. We can prevent attacks for days and years, but all it takes is one big oversight or mistake, which I think we can agree our government is prone to doing, to change the tide.
Whether or not you want to accept it, the War on Terror is not being won by America and it never will be – because you cannot win a war on an ideology. We are at least just as unsafe and vulnerable now than we were prior to 9/11, if not more so. Maybe President Bush is a good Christian after all, because it's nothing short of an act of God that we haven't been attacked again, given our government's omnipresent ineptitude.
Tim Waddingham is a senior, double majoring in speech communication and political science. His column runs every Wednesday in the Collegian.