War on Terror Four Years Later

09.07.2005 | International, FacultyMIXED REVIEWS — "The most important measure of progress in the War on Terror, from the United States' perspective, is that al-Qaida has not attacked the American homeland," said Mark Ensalaco, director of the international studies and human rights program at the University of Dayton and author of a soon-to-be-released book From Black September to September 11, believed to be the first complete history of Middle Eastern terrorism from 1968 through Yasser Arafat's death.

"It is a reasonable inference that al-Qaida has not attacked because U.S. authorities have prevented al-Qaida from organizing a terror operation. There have been a number of other positive developments, most notably the capture or killing of senior al-Qaida operatives or operatives of al-Qaida-inspired or affiliated terror organizations.

"Nonetheless, al-Qaida or al-Qaida-inspired organizations have mounted deadly attacks along a wide arc from South Asia to North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The terrorist enemy is very lethal - in great measure because al-Qaida successfully transformed itself from an organization into a jihadist movement. It is conceivable that the amorphous terror threat the U.S. confronts today is exactly the threat Osama bin Laden envisioned at the beginning of 1990. That is, he was tremendously patient and methodical in organizing the global jihad by establishing the base (al-Qaida) in the first half of the 1990s, while organizing the first deadly attacks - the first World Trade Center attack in February 1993 and attacks in Somolia in 1993, Saudia Arabia in 1995 and 1996, East Africa in 1998, and Yemen in 2000.

"The United States will inevitably prevail in the global War on Terror. The administration's national strategy for combating terrorism is fundamentally sound. The president is correct that defeating global terror networks will require all the elements of national power. The terror organizations are at a fundamental disadvantage because, as nonstate actors, they cannot marshal 'all the elements of national power.' But we should not be under any illusions: Al-Qaida will strike many more times, possibly in the United States, before we subdue its threat.

"In this regard it is important to note that the war in Iraq has been a tremendous distraction from the global War on Terror. Obviously, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri remain at large. The redeployment of military and intelligence resources in 2002 in preparation for the invasion of Iraq most probably permitted them to escape. Moreover, Iraq has become a field of jihad for Islamist militants, in the same way as Afghanistan became one in the 1980s. Administration officials are simply fooling themselves if they believe that by fighting terrorists in Iraq, we do not have to fight them on the streets of America.

"Not a single senior al-Qaida operative has been captured or killed as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom; in fact, all the major successes have been the result of law enforcement or intelligence operations, not military operations.

"The counterinsurgency in Iraq has not made America safer. It has exposed American forces to a danger that did not exist prior to the invasion. To be clear: the overthrow of Saddam was a tremendous achievement. The Reagan administration should never have established diplomatic relations with Saddam in the mid-1980s when Iraq was known to be using chemical weapons against Iran.

"The administration's transformative vision for the Middle East is compelling: A democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East could indeed contribute to regional and U.S. national security in the long term. But in the short- and medium-term, American forces will have to bear the brunt of the administration's misperceptions about the connection between the liberation of Iraq and progress in the global War on Terror, as well as the administration's miscalculations about the prospects for an insurgency in Iraq."

Contact Mark Ensalaco at (937) 229-2761 or Mark Ensalaco.

GOOD PROGRESS –"Four years after 9/11, judged by previous American and Western counter-insurgencies and anti-guerrilla wars, the War on Terror is progressing very well," said Larry Schweikart, professor of history at the University of Dayton and co-author of A Patriot's History of the United States, written as an antidote to what Schweikart sees as liberal-leaning history textbooks.

"Historically, most insurgencies - even those with large-scale direct state support (which the terrorists do not have) - are defeated in a period of three to 10 years. Typically, they take time, not 'more troops.' The U.S. Filipino Revolt is a good example of how Americans defeated a terrorist enemy in a difficult overseas setting. Then, as now, the insurgents' main objectives were not the defeat of American military forces, but effecting political changes in the United States. (Emilio) Aguinaldo, for example, sought to unseat President William McKinley, and when McKinley won re-election, the insurgency soon died off (with heavy, continued U.S. military presence).

"More important, the new approach of the Bush administration is to begin changing fundamentally the radical, anti-Western basis for Middle Eastern states. This has been accomplished for the most part in Afghanistan and is happening in Iraq, where latest polls show support for Osama bin Laden plummeting. In addition, other 'bad actors' in the past, such as Libya, have voluntarily yielded their weapons of mass destruction, while still other Middle Eastern states, using Afghanistan and Iraq as models, are demanding democratic changes and liberation of women in their own societies. This constitutes a massive and far-reaching transformation that is necessary to defeat Islamofascism. Oh, and, in passing, the United States' homeland has not been attacked since 9/11."

Contact Larry Schweikart at (937) 229-2804.