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    9/11 -- and Counting
    Four Years In, No Clear Plan
    By Michael Hirsh

    Sunday, September 11, 2005; Page B01

    On Dec. 9, 1941, two days after the Pearl Harbor attack, Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the American people in a fireside chat. In tone and manner, FDR's words were not very different from the rhetoric of George W. Bush three generations later, when Bush called the nation to action nine days after Sept. 11, 2001, and declared, "We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail." Roosevelt told his radio listeners: "The sources of international brutality, wherever they exist, must be absolutely and finally broken down. . . . We don't like it -- we didn't want to get in it -- but we are in it and we are going to fight it with everything we've got. . . . We are going to win the war, and we are going to win the peace that follows."

    FDR was as good as his word. Over the next 3 1/2 years, he and then his successor, Harry Truman, transformed a depression-ravaged, isolationist nation -- one with virtually no army -- into the world's dominant power. They assiduously cultivated alliances that shared the fighting and dying, oversaw the defeat of two hegemonic threats (Japan and Germany), and began to rebuild these former enemies into peaceful democratic allies. At the same time the two presidents created many of the institutions that still define the global system, including the United Nations, planning for which began in 1944.

    And they did it in less time than has now elapsed in the war on terrorism. Today marks the fourth anniversary of 9/11. It is a depressing milestone, made grimmer by the comparison to World War II. President Bush himself drew this analogy in a speech on Aug. 30, declaring that we face a "determined enemy who follows a ruthless ideology" just as we did 60 years earlier, and "once again we will not rest until victory is America's." What Bush failed to note was that it took FDR and Truman precisely 1,347 days, from Dec. 7, 1941, to the surrender of Japan on Aug. 15, 1945, to win WWII, pacify the enemy and largely secure the peace that followed. By comparison, 1,461 days have now passed since that terrible day in 2001. And even now there is no end in sight to the "global war on terror." What is perhaps more unsettling, there is no detailed strategy for winning this war.

    Clearly, this is a very different kind of conflict from WWII. Then, we were fighting an easy-to-identify enemy in plainly delineated theaters of war. The same can't be said of the war on terrorism. Bush himself has said that it would be a long, open-ended conflict. And as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has put it umpteen times, al Qaeda is "not going to be signing some sort of a surrender aboard the battleship Missouri." But the novelty of the current foe only makes a lucid strategy more essential, and our planning failures more disheartening.

    Bush can claim one triumph: We have suffered no further attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 (not counting the unsolved anthrax attacks later that fall). Casualties are far fewer, too, than in any other major war in U.S. history since the Revolution. "I do think there's been progress in some areas," says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the State Department's head of policy planning in Bush's first term. "In the last four years, for example, I think the world has become a tougher place for terrorists to operate in."

    Yet Haass agrees that in other respects "history will be harsh in its judgments" of the Bush administration. The war on terror has become an Orwellian nightmare, an ill-defined conflict with a fractious group of terrorists that seems to be ever-escalating. At this stage in WWII, Hitler was dead. His top lieutenants, as well as their counterparts in Japan, were awaiting trial for war crimes. By contrast, the chief culprit of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, have escaped -- their trail is as cold as it's ever been -- to become mythic rallying figures for radical Islamists.

    Moreover, an administration that had sought to reassert U.S. power now finds itself projecting weakness. An America that was at the top of its game internationally on Sept. 10, 2001 has squandered its prestige. Iraq is draining the most powerful Army in history, America's moral standing in the world is diminished, and our policies, according to the CIA's own analysis, may have only helped to foment the jihadi movement globally. We possess less leverage over the nuclear-minded states of Iran and North Korea. Lacking a bold initiative on energy, we are more beholden to the Arab world and Russia for desperately needed oil. And as our economy amasses record budget and trade deficits, we rely more than ever on the financial goodwill of China, Japan and Europe to keep us afloat.

    Most disturbing of all, the man who once called himself a "war president" has not formulated a well-thought-out plan for winning this war, either in public or privately within his administration. In place of a strategy, Bush mainly repeats his vague pledge to spread democracy "with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," as he put it in his second inaugural address. "Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror," Rumsfeld wrote in a now-famous memo that was leaked in October 2003. Administration sources tell me that no such "metrics" have yet been found.

    A surprising number of strategists believe, in fact, that the United States is losing the war on terrorism as anti-Americanism and the Iraq occupation fuel an endless supply of new jihadis. "We're now spending more time thinking about a war with China, a war that is never going to happen, than we are thinking about a war we are currently losing that presents a clear and present danger," one exasperated senior military official at the Pentagon told me last month. "If this is a global battle for hearts and minds, we haven't even stood up an army yet. We have a general now: Karen Hughes [the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy]. But it's stuff they should have done four years ago." The White House and Pentagon have even begun arguing over whether what they are engaged in is a "war" at all.

    What is the difference between these two approaches to global leadership 60 years apart? In a word: planning. FDR began planning for a postwar world even before Pearl Harbor, laying out the "four freedoms" in January 1941 and hashing out the Atlantic Charter with Winston Churchill months later.

    The Bush approach, in contrast, has been scattershot and conceived "piece by piece," in the words of one European diplomat in Washington. There is no evidence that Bush ever held a grand strategy session with his principals in which all the variables were laid on the table: the costs of the global war on terrorism, the strategic goal, and the real costs, in dollars and lives, of an Iraq invasion. In February 2003, the administration released a "National Strategy for Combating Terrorism," but it was mainly a statement of aims, full of boilerplate, and it was drowned out by the Iraq war the following month. As former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft told me recently, the administration still needs to study "the roots of terrorism and not the manifestations of it."

    Bush's all-embracing solution to terrorism -- spreading democracy -- seems to be based on an article of faith, not on a thorough look at the sources of terror. As F. Gregory Gause, a political scientist at the University of Vermont, writes in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, "the data available do not show a strong relationship between democracy and an absence of or reduction in terrorism." Some scholars argue that most terrorism actually occurs within democracies. Still, political progress in the Arab world could defuse frustration that fosters violence. But the administration, in its new campaign led by Hughes, has failed to emphasize what most experts say is the critical element in successful democratic development: economic progress and the creation of a middle class.

    As the president has repeatedly said, this is a new kind of war. If anything, he and his top aides have indicated, it is more comparable to the long, ideological struggle of the Cold War than it is to WWII. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has likened herself to her Truman-era predecessor, Dean Acheson, who wrote that he was "present at the creation" of Cold War containment strategy.

    But here too the comparison is not flattering. Containment doctrine evolved swiftly after WWII. It began with George Kennan's famous Long Telegram in February 1946, in which he described what he later called "the sources of Soviet conduct," and culminated in NSC-68 in the spring of 1950. NSC-68 was no boilerplate: This internal policy document included precise requests for defense spending and projections for how America could outspend the Soviet Union. In just about four years, America had developed a strategy that ultimately prevailed.

    Truman's Republican successor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was also an obsessive planner, dating from his days as Allied supreme commander. Within six months of taking office, in June 1953, Eisenhower convened a top-secret "Project Solarium" (named after the room where Ike decided on the approach) to forge a Cold War strategy in five weeks. Even Kennan later remarked that Ike had shown his "intellectual ascendancy over every man in the room" by taking command of the final meeting, accurately summarizing the three main approaches, and opting for Truman-style containment.

    In December of 2003, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz presided over a secret "Solarium II" meeting to develop a grand strategy. But Bush wasn't there and participants said Wolfowitz himself read unrelated briefing papers during presentations. Solarium II came to no hard conclusions, one participant said.

    Bush, of course, hasn't been sitting on his hands. He created the Department of Homeland Security and reorganized the intelligence community. He has done much of this only reluctantly, however, under public and congressional pressure. And as the confused response to Hurricane Katrina has shown, the rhetoric and stagecraft of planning often seem to take the place of real planning.

    Real planning requires real understanding of the enemy, and today we may be even further away from that than on 9/11. In recent months, Bush has contributed to that by lumping Iraqi insurgents together with the "terrorists" as though there were one static group of global bad guys whom we would be fighting in our own streets if we weren't dealing with them in Iraq. But Bush's own generals have contradicted this view. Although the Iraq war has attracted foreign jihadists, U.S. generals say that the Iraqi insurgency is mainly composed of Iraqis, few of whom are members of al Qaeda and very few of whom would be attacking us in the streets of New York and Washington if we weren't in Iraq.

    Some military thinkers believe that the international terrorist threat should be viewed as a kind of global insurgency that could last a decade or more. But if so, Pentagon planners say they have not agreed on any single counterinsurgency approach.

    What would a true national strategy in the war on terrorism look like? At the very least, critics say, one thing was clear after 9/11: America's economy and security depended, because of oil, on a region that was far more unstable than we'd realized. So one effort at national mobilization should have been an energy policy that would slash our dependence on oil and unreliable Arab producers. Yet Bush's recent energy legislation, four years in the making, barely provided incentives for conservation or hybrid technologies while pouring billions in tax breaks into the search for new oil.

    Compare this with FDR's national mobilization of U.S. industry in the early months of WWII, or the Cold War-era mobilization that led to the blossoming of U.S. science education, the space program and the Internet, and the differences are dramatic.

    Four years into the war on terrorism, it's awfully late to begin devising a broad-based, detailed strategy for the complete destruction of terrorist groups like al Qaeda. Let's hope it's not too late. But the first step is to acknowledge that we haven't yet done it.

    Author's e-mail:

    [email protected]

    Michael Hirsh covers foreign affairs for Newsweek and is author of "At War With Ourselves" (Oxford University).

    © 2005 The Washington Post Company
    June 9, 1973 - The day athletic perfection was defined.

  • #2
    And a longer, related article:
    June 9, 1973 - The day athletic perfection was defined.


    • #3

      Sunday, September 11, 2005

      9/11, 7/7 and 8/30

      On the fourth-year anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the US, it is important that we take stock of where we stand. We do not stand in a good place. The US military is bogged down in an intractable guerrilla war in Iraq, which most Muslims view as an aggressive neo-imperialism. Afghanistan is still unstable. The major al-Qaeda leaders are still at large, and recently struck London. Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans on 8/30 have demonstrated that the US government is unprepared to deal with major disasters, and that Bush administration priorities have often been capricious.

      There have been no further major acts of terrorism in the United States. There are many theories for why this should be. It is certainly the case that there are al-Qaeda members who would like to hit the US again. But al-Qaeda is only interested in what might be called theatrical terrorism, an attack that takes a big toll of dead and wounded and makes an impact on the enemy's economy. Such attacks are not easy for a tiny organization like al-Qaeda, which lacks the backing of a state, to carry out. Al-Qaeda used up its really capable people on 9/11 and is now left mostly with incompetents and marginal personalities. The US is a long way from the Middle East or Europe, and security measures have made it difficult for al-Qaeda operatives to get here or to do damage without being discovered first. The American Muslim community is on the whole fairly well integrated into American society, and clearly all but a handful are loyal Americans who wish to see the country they live in flourish. It was the American Muslims who turned in the Lackawanee five, Yemeni-American young men who had been in an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. One group of Muslim American associations pledged $10 million for Katrina relief efforts. Still, an al-Qaeda attack on a dam or on a nuclear plant is still plausible, and there is no room for complacency.

      Al-Qaeda simply hasn't been a priority for Bush. His first priority, all along, has been cutting taxes on his rich friends. The American public is so innumerate that they cannot seem to figure out that if you exclude from taxes another 5 percent of a man's income who pulls down $10 billion, you are talking about $500 million on which he doesn't have to pay taxes every year. But if you exclude the same percentage from taxes for someone making $20,000 a year (and there are a lot of those), then you are only saving her from paying taxes on $1000 a year. That the government could cut taxes on the low-income earners, and not cut them on the super-rich, doesn't seem to occur to the middle class that is so eager for a few crumbs from Bush that they are willing to sell their birthright to government services. Because Bush cut taxes so deeply, and therefore reduced government income and produced a big chronic deficit, he had to steal money for Iraq from various places. The government he appointed to run Iraq for a year (which never had any legal charter) essentially stole Iraq's petroleum income to use on its projects. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for. It is well documented that Bush stole money from Louisiana ear-marked for improving the levees at New Orleans, and also that he sent Louisiana national guardsmen to Iraq.

      The Bush administration has put enormously more resources into its problematic Iraq War than it ever did into the fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. That they have not succeeded in capturing Usamah Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri is a sign of extreme negligence or lack of seriousness. Likewise, the US government appears to have had no inkling that the March, 2004, bombings in Madrid or the July, 2005 bombings in London were in the offing. Given that a very large number of CIA personnel are in Iraq, it is no wonder that they hadn't been able to penetrate or monitor the radical Muslim terrorists in Western Europe.

      The danger of leaving Zawahiri out there to plot against the West was made crystal clear by the July 7 bombings in London and the July 21 attempted bombings. As I noted at the time, the statement released at the time of the July 7 bombings in London seemed to come from an Egyptian. Little did I realize at the time that it was probably written by Ayman al-Zawahiri himself. In the videotape released in early September and shown on al-Jazeera, Zawahiri uses phraseology similar to what was in the announcement posted on 7/7 to an internet site. The surprise for me was that Zawahiri had managed to use a Pakistani jihadi group, the Jaish-i Muhammad, to recruit 3 British young men of Pakistani heritage plus a Carribean to blow up the London underground. Zawahiri clearly had the copy of Muhammad Sadique Khan's last statement, which he bundled with his own screed. I don't personally believe there is any question whatsoever that 7/7 was an al-Qaeda operation of the old sort, with Zawahiri actually involved in comand-and-control (unlike in Spain, where an independent Moroccan group with no direct al-Qaeda ties was responsible). It is still unclear if the second bombing attempt, on July 21, was an inept copycat operation or if it was also run behind the scenes by Zawahiri. Its perpetrators included 3 East Africans and a Carribean and used the same explosive (which luckily had gone stale).

      In the UK critics of the Blair government concentrated on the question of whether the bombers were inspired to their hatred for their own country by Western atrocities in Iraq. Of course they were. They talked incessantly of what they saw as massacres at Fallujah, and the torture at Abu Ghraib. Blair had been warned by his own intelligence people in 2004 that the Iraq War could well provoke terrorism against the UK. But that debate missed the key question of why Zawahiri is still at large and able to blow up London, four years after he helped blow up New York and Washington.

      The Bush administration has dropped the ball on al-Qaeda, big time. The Iraq War has created a new recruiting ground for al-Qaeda and its soul mates among the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. In Haifa Street in Baghdad and in Samarra, there have actually been crowds wearing al-Qaeda insignia. Contrary to what the Bush administration would have you believe, Iraqis had had virtually nothing to do with al-Qaeda before the American invasion. Iraqi Sunnis had once mostly been secular Arab nationalists. But the American destruction of the Baath Party has made religious fundamentalism attractive to them as an alternative political identity. The US has succeeded in pushing 5 million Middle Easterners away from secular nationalism and toward the arms of al-Qaeda. Operations such as Fallujah and Tal Afar, involving the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, the damaging of a majority of buildings in the city, and the deaths of thousands, will not soon be forgotten by the country's Sunni Arabs. Some have spoken of taking revenge by finding a way to hit the American homeland. Things are not going well.

      On top of the failures in the fight against al-Qaeda and the quagmire in Iraq, the US suffered a major blow with Hurricane Katrina and the Great Flood of 2005 in New Orleans (or what used to be New Orleans). The blow was not primarily to the US economy, which is resilient and enormous ($13 trillion?), and which will recoup-- though the economic recovery may slow. The blow was psychological and political. The abysmal job that Bush and Co. did in responding to the disaster, which cost so many lives, will not soon be forgotten. What, many security experts are asking, if this had been a terrorist strike? Unpreparedness of this epochal sort could sink the government.

      Bush has given us the worst of all possible worlds-- a half-finished job against al-Qaeda, an Iraqi imbroglio that could still explode into civil or even regional war-- and which serves as an al-Qaeda recruiting tool--, a government starved for funds, an enormous windfall for the rich at the expense of the middle class (which saw average wages actually fall recently), and an inability to respond effectively to a major urban catastrophe.

      Four years after September 11, al-Qaeda's leadership should have been behind bars or dead. Four years after September 11, Afghanistan should have been stabilized. Four years after September 11, the government should have been ready to save lives in an urban disaster.

      Bush recently started likening his poorly conceived and misnamed "war on terror" to World War II.

      What his handlers have forgotten is how long World War II lasted for the United States.

      Four years.

      In four years, Roosevelt and allies defeated Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. In four years, Bush hasn't managed even to corner Bin Laden and a few hundred scruffy terrorists; or to extract himself from the deserts of Iraq; or to put the government's finances in good order so that it can deal with crises like Katrina.

      Four years. I think about the victims of 9/11, and now 7/7. We have let you down.

      Mr. G


      • #4
        The aftermath of WW II was the Cold War which lasted close to 50 years

        I'm no fan of Bush but to compare this conflict to WW II is comparing apples to oragnes.

        This 'war' on terrorism will go on as long as there is hopelessness and poverty in the Middle East.

        People with hope don't wear dynamite in their trousers.
        Go Cards ...12 in 13.


        • #5
          This should be a day of remembering the victims, not political grandstanding.


          • #6
            Originally posted by 210@Sep 11 2005, 12:32 PM
            This should be a day of remembering the victims, not political grandstanding.
            RIP Chris Jones 1971-2009
            You'll never be forgotten.


            • #7
              Originally posted by 210@Sep 11 2005, 12:32 PM
              This should be a day of remembering the victims, not political grandstanding.

              amen to that
              Go Cards ...12 in 13.