Thursday, February 28, 2008


During the upcoming general election campaign the question that will be repeatedly asked: "Are we safer today than before 911?" Asked in another way: "Is al-Qaeda capable of pulling off another major attack.

Obama talks about withdrawing from Iraq while putting more effort into Afghanistan. The problem with this strategy is that the battle being fought in Afghanistan is with the Taliban not al-Qaeda. The Taliban allowed al-Qaeda to operate training camps in Afghanistan before 911 but those training camps were put out of business when the first US bombs fell. Chasing akl-Qaeda out of Afghanistan was easy enough but eliminating the Taliban would require a large military action for a small benefit.

Go back in time about 19 years and we discover that with the Taliban was able to defeat Russia. Sure, the US helped by supplying arms (see Charlie Wilson's War), but it was the tenacity of a tribal people living in remote, mountainous terrain that won the war. Taliban tribesmen on horseback were able to prevail against Russian tanks and Heine Helicopters. US and NATO forces support the Afghanistan government forces but these forces at current levels have very little chance and, are not even making a sincere effort, to win control of the Afghanistan mountains.

Even if the US-Allied forces were to win control of the mountains of Afghanistan, al-Qaeda has crossed over the border into the mountains of Pakistan. Obama's emphasis on Afghanistan goes nowhere, unless he is prepared to send US troops into the mountains of Pakistan.

There is evidence that al-Qaeda forces have reorganized within the border of Pakistan. Part of the reason they have reformed in Pakistan is because they have been beaten back from Afghanistan and Iraq. Their military losses have been heavy and, most importantly, they have lost and continue to lose their top leaders. There is little evidence that this group has the ability to launch a 911 style attack. Were it not for the support of "national sponsors" this group would be of little concern to the rest of the world. Do we really believe that Obama is ready to invade an allied country? It makes good rhetoric to say that George Bush is fighting the wrong war but it is foolish to suggest that wiping out the tribes who live in these mountains is the top strategic US objective.

Iraq is strategically located between Iran and Syria and these three nations were, for a number of years, among the nations that openly backed terrorism. The most powerful country in the region, Iran, is a sponsor of terrorism and it is developing nuclear technology. It would be morally wrong to ignore this country's willingness to supply suicide-homicide bombs for the purpose of killing innocent men, women and children.

It is sad to say but, in order to make the people of the world, Americans included, willing to stand up to the terrorist, the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" part of the story must be emphasized. It is true that the prior government of Iraq used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people, it is true that Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the map, and it is true that Iran has worked on nuclear weapons, but even if this were not true, the encouragement of those willing to blow up innocent people is the reason to confront these governments. In the case of Pakistan, the government is on the side of defeating terrorist. If the government of Pakistan was the sponsor of the terrorist, then Pakistan should be next on the list to confront. Obama's words that the war in Iraq has only served to distract us from the war in Afghanistan totally misses the mark. His words are nothing more than poll driven political rhetoric. Obama needs cover so that he can switch horses before the general election. During the primary, Obama is the left wing anti war, anti NAFTA candidate. When the general election starts, he will be the anti Osama bin Laden, free trade candidate.

The problem is that another 911 could happen. To prevent another 911, the USA and the rest of the world must confront states that support terrorist behavior. Americans would be elated for Osama to meet his doom but killing this one man is not the key to limiting the threat of terrorism. Iran is the biggest remaining piece to the stop terrorism puzzle. Countries such as Libya have turned 180 degrees. Let us hope and pray that the government of Iran can be turned as well!