The War on Terror - A Year End Report Card

As we approach the new year, it is a good time to take to stock in our progress in the War on Terror. We are now over seven years past the terrible events of September 11, 2001. In that time, the United States has stopped dozens of plots for terrorists attacks against our homeland and our installations abroad.

A lot of the credit for the safety of us here at home has to go to the Bush administration. President Bush implemented several key policies and strategies that have made us safer. First, the ousting of the Taliban government in Afghanistan took away Al Qaeda’s principal safe haven. The terrorist training camps in that country are no long available to plot attacks against Western targets. There is still very difficult work to do in Afghanistan to prevent it from slipping back into the category of a failed state, but we are on the offensive.

Next, the actions that we have taken in Somalia have also helped reduce the number of terrorists in that failed state. By direct intervention and the support Ethiopia’s military intervention in that county, we have killed many Al Qaeda members. Unfortunately, the Ethiopian government recently announced that they will soon be withdrawing from Somalia. Hopefully, President-elect Obama can use some of his worldwide goodwill to persuade them to stay. This could be the first test to see if all of his talk about a new foreign policy will really work with our allies.

Also, we cannot forget the war in Iraq. President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq made that country the central front for the War on Terror for the better part of the past six years. It is currently unpopular to say this, but it is true that the jihadists in the Middle East poured into Iraq to fight us there. As the President said many times, it is far better to fight them there than back here!
These overseas operations (like others, such as the increased US military operations along the Afghan / Pakistan border) are proxies for a widespread, aggressive use of US military power abroad in the fight against terrorism. Taking the fight to the enemy shows that we are willing and able to defend US interests anywhere in the world. Now, every terrorist must worry about his personal security on a daily basis, thereby making it harder to concentrate on his jihadist desires.

Additionally, our coercive interrogation program in Guantanamo Bay forced Khalid Sheikh Mohammad to give up many details about then pending Al Qaeda attacks, as well as details about the 9/11 attacks themselves. Coercive interrogation is not torture and should not be confused with it. This administration has never engaged in, nor sanctioned, torture.

Closer to home, we have spent billions of dollars on port and border security. The increases in manpower and the advances in technology have helped improve safety at our ports of entry and our border with Mexico. The virtual fence is flawed, but it will be fixed. The administration has stepped up raids on those who hire illegal aliens. For the first time, we have actually seen a decrease in illegal immigration. There is still more to do, but progress has been made at our borders.

There is no question that the Islamists want to carry out a spectacular attack against the United States. However, the hardening of our targets has made that more difficult. Just look at the attacks in Mumbai. India proved to be a soft target compared to the United States. Is there any doubt that a US city would have been a more valuable target to the terrorists than Mumbai? I don't think so. But, our government has acted and made it more difficult for the terrorists to succeed on our home front.
As we approach a new year and a new administration, we can know that our country is safer than it was on September 10, 2001. Our systems are not flawless and they never will be. The new President will have choices to make and hopefully, he will continue to choose to secure our country using the many tools at his disposal. But, we must always remember that old adage, we have to be right 100% of the time, the terrorists only have to be right once.

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