What’s war been good for? Absolutely nothin’
Published: Sunday, September 18, 2011
Updated: Sunday, September 18, 2011 15:09
The 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks largely focused, as it should have, on the lives of those lost.
In showing the capacity of ordinary people to exhibit extraordinary courage, the victims of this tragedy exemplified the best of our country and the best of the human spirit. We are indeed indebted to these individuals, and they will always be remembered for it.
It goes without saying that this day changed us as a people and as a nation. We've sacrificed a lot for security, including $1 trillion and some of our own freedoms. Yet, according to a recent Gallup poll, the American people's views of the war on terrorism are in an almost identical position to where they were in October 2001.
Indeed, there is an almost even 46 percent to 42 percent split between the view that the United States and its allies are winning the war on terrorism and the views that neither the U.S. nor the terrorists are winning.
I find these statistics to be both discouraging and disappointing but certainly not surprising. We are not winning the war on terror because wars are not won in the traditional sense anymore. The traditional notion of winning a war is fairly clear: defeat an enemy on the battlefield and force them to accept political terms. But what does victory mean in a war on terror? Would we even recognize it when it came?
Today, with Osama bin Laden dead, al-Qaida a shadow of its former self and the U.S. homeland absent of any major terrorist attacks in the last decade, Americans continue to find themselves undecided on the concept of winning this war on terror.
To make the situation seem even more dire, the majority of Americans polled remain convinced that terrorists can always manage to launch attacks on the U.S. if they want to, regardless of what the U.S. government may do. This means that the $1 trillion we have spent on homeland security and counterterrorism since 2001 has had no real effect on public opinion. With victory inconceivable, the fear still lingers.
Now you may argue that the $1 trillion spent on homeland security and counterterrorism has at least protected our nation from terrorist attacks. This statement definitely has merit, but let's put it in perspective: Since the moment that President Theodore Roosevelt declared a crusade to exterminate terrorism in 1901, and until the attacks of Sept. 11 100 years later, there had only been four successful, mass-casualty terror attacks on U.S. soil; only two of those four incidents involved international terror groups.
Homeland terrorism is so rare in occurrence that the conservative American Council on Science and Health puts the risk of dying in a terrorist attack at zero. With that said, terrorist acts have always been the exception, not the rule.
Ten years after Sept. 11, with two wars under our belt and numerous lives lost, I would argue that we are an economically, politically and socially weaker nation than we were 10 years ago. There are many reasons for this, and some of them may have little to do with the war on terror.
Nonetheless, if we intend to keep moving forward as a people and as a nation, we will have to force ourselves to reevaluate what it means to win a war, if such a concept even exists anymore.