Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Four Years After 9/11 -- The Pessimistic View

Two interesting articles on the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks have recently appeared and are available on the web. Both paint a rather pessimistic picture of the current war effort. Mark Danner writing in this past weekend's New York Times Magazine writes from what might be called a center-left perspective in his article Taking Stock of the Forever War, while Steven M. Warshawsky talks about the The Bush Doctrine, R.I.P. at RealClearPolitics.com (hat tip Gus Van Horn) attacking Bush from the right. As I am myself in a pessimistic frame of mind regarding the progress of this war I found much to agree with in both articles but also some disagreements.

Both Danner and Warshawsky point to reasons for disappointment in the present war effort. Let's look at some key excerpts from Danner first:
Today marks four years of war. Four years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. troops ruled unchallenged in Japan and Germany. During those 48 months, Americans created an unmatched machine of war and decisively defeated two great enemies.
Four years after the collapse of the towers, evil is still with us and so is terrorism. Terrorists have staged spectacular attacks, killing thousands, in Tunisia, Bali, Mombasa, Riyadh, Istanbul, Casablanca, Jakarta, Madrid, Sharm el Sheik and London, to name only the best known. Last year, they mounted 651 "significant terrorist attacks," triple the year before and the highest since the State Department started gathering figures two decades ago. One hundred ninety-eight of these came in Iraq, Bush's "central front of the war on terror" - nine times the year before. And this does not include the hundreds of attacks on U.S. troops. It is in Iraq, which was to serve as the first step in the "democratization of the Middle East," that insurgents have taken terrorism to a new level, killing well over 4,000 people since April in Baghdad alone; in May, Iraq suffered 90 suicide-bombings. Perhaps the "shining example of democracy" that the administration promised will someday come, but for now Iraq has become a grotesque advertisement for the power and efficacy of terror.
This is the picture we have seen in the news over the last four years. Perhaps I have not read enough of Chrenkoff's Good News from Iraq but that's pretty much my understanding of the situation as well. Meanwhile, Warshawsky takes the President to task for defaulting on his own doctrine:
In his recent speeches about the war on terror, President Bush has unmistakably backed away from the aggressively martial rhetoric he used after 9/11. He no longer speaks in terms of destroying “every terrorist group of global reach.” Or “pursuing nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism.” Or “confronting the worst threats before they emerge.” The Bush Doctrine, as originally understood, is a dead letter. All the talk now is about Iraq, and why we should remain in Iraq despite a rising death toll that has eroded public support for the war. Indeed, Bush’s last four major statements on the war – his 2005 State of the Union address, his speech to the troops at Fort Hood in April 2005, his graduation speech at the Naval Academy in May 2005, and his national address from Fort Bragg in June 2005 – were devoted almost exclusively to making the case for remaining in Iraq. While I agree with the President on this issue, the fact remains that this is not the “war on terror” he spoke about after 9/11.
It is indeed very frustrating for those of us who have supported President Bush in the last election over the vocal opposition of the likes of Leonard Peikoff, Scott Holleran, Craig Biddle and others.

In the end Danner's criticism fails as he seems to think by adopting "rollback" rather than "containment" as our policy we have done too much already, and as a result are facing an continuously replenished supply of fanatics ready kill and be killed. But there is an alternative to this depressing scenario and that is to fight a real war, the kind of war hinted at by Bush in his early statements that Warshawsky quotes:

The second principle underlying the Bush Doctrine is that our enemy in this war is not just the “radical network of terrorists,” but “every government that supports them.” As Bush put it in his statement to the nation on 9/11:

"We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

The President elaborated on the vital importance of this element of his anti-terror strategy in his State of the Union address in January 2002:

"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic."

Sadly, as Warshawsky points out, the President seems to have abandoned his own policies or perhaps we read too much into them in the first place.

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