Skip to comments.Four Years On: A World of Surprises
Posted on 10/08/2005 8:03:22 AM PDT by Valin
An old military maxim warns that no plan survives contact with the enemy. So it should come as no surprise that Washingtons post-9/11 battle plan, which leaped from rhetoric into reality when the US military began to dismantle the Taliban on October 7, 2001, has yielded its share of, well, surprises. Some of these have been pleasant, some have been unpleasant, and some have even been both.
Among the pleasant surprises is the political transformation now underway across the Middle East, a transformation that even Washingtons critics concede is linked to its post-9/11 doctrine. The American invasion of Iraq, as Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese political figure with no love for America, put it, was the start of a new Arab world.
If, amid that autumn of uncertainty in 2001, I had written that within 48 months a new Arab and Muslim world founded on representative government would be taking root, you probably would have logged off. Yet we now live in what Fouad Ajami has aptly called the autumn of autocrats:
Afghanistan and Iraq have held democratic elections, pushing the terror regimes of the Taliban and Saddam ever deeper into history. Lebanon has rallied to oust Syrias puppet government, and the Syrian dictatorship finds itself isolated like never before. The only question is how the Syrian regime will endwith a violent crash or with a whimper. According to a Pew survey of Muslim nations, sizable majorities in Morocco (83 percent), Lebanon (83 percent), Jordan (80 percent) and Indonesia (77 percent) say democracy can work well and is not just for the West.
Muammar Qaddafi's stunning pre-emptive surrender of his WMD arsenal and al Qaedas failure to carry out another 9/11 also qualify as pleasant surprisesand both are the result of Americas aggressive post-9/11 doctrine.
There have been pleasant surprises and political transformations at home as well. Four years ago, I wrote that perhaps Americas greatest challenge would be matching the enemys patience. Could a nation accustomed to bloodless, push-button wars hold its interest (or its nerve) once the trail to terror went cold, once our allies started to bleed and burn, once American bodies were dragged through some faraway city?
Yes. All of these things have come to pass, yet the American people have continued to support this war effort. That could change, of course, but the fact that Americans are still willing to carry this burden after four years of bleeding and dying underscores just how much 9/11 has transformed us: Owing at least partly to the fact that a post-Vietnam America would simply not tolerate casualties, Carter (Desert One), Reagan (Beirut) and Clinton (Somalia) were quick to shut down operations as soon as US troops started dying. Likewise, the elder Bushs decision to stop short of Baghdad was shaped by Americas low tolerance for casualties.
The American people still dont want their troops to fight or die in vain, of course; but they have rightly, if reluctantly, concluded that it is better for the troops to risk life and limb on foreign shores than for civilians to be evaporated on our own.
Mercifully, there have been fewer unpleasant surprises than most of us expected in October 2001. The scarred state of transatlantic relations is one of them. There was a brief, unmeasured moment when Le Monde declared, Were all Americans, when NATO invoked Article V, when the EUs stalwarts on the UN Security Council seemed willing to bless Americas global war on terror. But that moment faded somewhere on the long road that connected Manhattan and Kabul and Baghdad.
Why did it fade away? There are many reasons, including the possibility that it was just a mirage. As British Prime Minister Tony Blair concluded on the eve of the Iraq War, key European capitals simply failed to understand Americas strategic anxiety over terrorism and WMD. Likewise, Washington failed to understand Europes anxiety over war itself.
Then there are those surprises that fall into both categories. Iraq and Pakistan top this list.
As the statues tumbled in Baghdad, the world was pleasantly surprised that Saddam had failed to pull the trigger on his WMDs. It pays to recall that todays war opponentsThe New York Times and John Kerry, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroederall believed that Saddam was hiding WMDs. When he didnt use them, some of us found a reason to breathe a sigh of relief; others found an opportunity to pounce on the presidents preventive war. And that leads us to the unpleasant surprises in Iraq: Postwar Iraq would be deadlier and bloodier than the war itself. After months of scouring Iraq, the US found only a dormant WMD programbut no WMDscalling into question a central rationale for war (though not the only one). With only the gallows awaiting him, one wonders if the Iraqi dictator has taken any satisfaction from his last, deadly game with Washington.
The pleasant surprise in Pakistan is what Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been able to do over the last four yearsnamely, hold onto power while publicly aligning himself with the US. Yet the further we drift from 9/11, the less helpful Musharraf becomes, which brings us to the unpleasant surprise in Pakistan.
Recall that Musharraf initially agreed to support Washington without reservation: He promised to grant US aircraft over-flight and landing rights, to allow US forces access to Pakistani bases and borders and to hand over intelligence data. Musharraf has seemed to backslide on these commitments. While he deserves some credit for helping to nab a handful of al-Qaeda lieutenants, its important to note that Pakistan has blocked US forces from freely crossing the border in hot pursuit of al Qaeda, that Pakistani troops have fired on US troops at times and that most intelligence experts believe Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan.
This invites a worrisome prospect: Is Musharraf unable to prod his military into capturing bin Laden or unwilling to give his military that order? Neither alternative is comforting. If the former is true, then Pakistans military and security forces are beyond the generals control. If the latter is true, then the general is playing a game with Washington, a game that must come to an end. After all, the very centerpiece of Washingtons post-9/11 doctrine holds that the US will make no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them.
Four years on, some have learned that lesson and some have not.
Alan W. Dowd is a contributing writer with The American Enterprise, a regular columnist at The American Enterprise Online, and Senior Fellow at Sagamore Institute for Policy Research.
President BUSH's Golden Age of America is now:
He has proclaimed our new Century as
...the LIBERTY Century.
He has promised...
...Freedom's return to Communist Vietnam, Communist North Korea & Communist Cuba,
as well as
...Freedom's arrival to all the countries of the Middle East,
during a BUSH Presidency,
...as America's own best self-protection against future terrorist attacks here at home.
He has aimed Americans...
...back to the surface of Earth's Moon
...and then towards the Planet Mars,
...sooner rather than later.
And he has committed us to bringing those still standing in the 7th Century A.D. on Earth
...along with us for the ride.
As GOD smiles down on him broadly.
...and from the very start
...there was someone pointing the way with his heroic 911 example:
911 Lifesaving Hero RICK RESCORLA, r.i.p.
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