Sixteen years after the 9/11 terror attacks, and America has not “won” the War on Terror. In fact, for all the fighting, we’ve lost about as much as we’ve gained, depending on how you measure such things.
Terror attacks in foreign cities around the world are just as terrifying, if not more, than they were in 2001. ISIS and Al Queda are still active and planning attacks on America and the West. The Taliban is still strong in Afghanistan. Although many of the “Arab strongmen” have been deposed, they’ve been replaced with brutal theocrats.
There are now far less Christians in the Middle East than there were in 2001. It seems that our War on Terror, which was never a “war on Islam,” has suffered mostly at the hands of Islamic extremists, who ever free as ever to operate, openly, in most of Europe.
NATO, which, for the first and only time in its history, invoked Article 5 mutual defense on 9/11/2001 to protect the United States, is weaker than it’s ever been. The Russians, should they desire, could overrun the NATO member Baltic States in just 60 hours–something the former Soviet Union could never, ever contemplate doing to any NATO member in 1990.
The U.S. military is strong, possibly stronger on paper than it’s ever been. On paper. But fighting two wars over 16 years has taken its toll. Casualties, PTSD and drawdowns have cost the Army much of its professional NCO and officer core. The Navy is down to the bare minimum for experienced seamen and ship drivers, as evidenced by the recent spate of accidents they’ve had.
And the Air Force is making due with bombers (and some fighters) that are older than their aircrews. The problems that separate our military “on paper” from the actual facts in the field are tied to logistics, maintenance, duty cycles, and upgrades. While we fly all over the world, from land and sea, our enemies (and potential enemies) are sitting back and spending on new equipment without having to fight large wars.
In fact, many of our defense industry’s largest orders are not coming from the U.S. military, but from foreign military sales (like the enormous order by Saudi Arabia, the country that 15 of 19 9/11 hijackers, plus organizer Khalid Sheikh Mohamed called home).
When (if) we finally defeat our 9/11 enemies, there will be others waiting in the wings. Do we think the North Koreans and the Iranians, and the Russians, and the Chinese will simply let us go home and rest?
If America assumes a duty to purge the world of evildoers, then doubles down on that commitment for the sake of the lives spent to achieve victory, we will find ourselves in perpetual war.
There is no shortage of evil in the world. We will never purge all of it.
I believe that, after 16 years, we have avenged the lives of the 2,896 casualties on that day. We are now trying to avenge the nearly 7,000 deaths of U.S. personnel since October 2001. Yet the struggle continues with no end in sight, while new threats rise up to challenge the mightiest superpower the world has ever known.
Isn’t it time to consider whether America should be engaged in perpetual war, or should we more carefully choose the timing of our battles, and what struggles in which we will invest our blood and treasure?