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Are We Winning The War On Terror?

As the United States enters its seventh year in the War on Terror its spending in the total effort is approaching a trillion dollars and its military and civilian casualties combined are approaching 40,000 people. These sacrifices, and more, may be the price for the post-9/11 security of the nation. However, they are significant and they do justify an accounting by American leaders. Three questions can be raised:

• Are we winning the War on Terror?
• Is the War in Iraq making us safer?
• Do our elected leaders understand the strategic situation the nation faces?

Results Of The Terrorism Index

In August the Center for American Progress published the results of its third Terrorism Index. They can be found on-line at:

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/08/terrorism_index.html

A survey of more than 100 of American foreign-policy experts by the Center provides unsettling insights into the questions above. According to the Center the experts they interviewed “see a world that is growing more dangerous, a national security strategy in disrepair, and a war in Iraq that is alarmingly off course.” Some of the results:

Are we winning the War on Terror?

In response to the statement “The United States is winning the War on Terror,” 6% agreed, 84% disagreed.

Is the War in Iraq making us safer?

In response to the question “Do you think the world is becoming safer or more dangerous for the United States and the American people?,” 2% answered safer, 91% answered more dangerous.

According to the Center, the War in Iraq “appears to be the root cause of the experts’ pessimism about the state of national security.” Nearly all of those interviewed – 92 % – said the War in Iraq negatively affects United States national security.

Do our elected leaders understand the strategic situation the nation faces?

The comments of American national leaders are often at odds with the results of the Index. As reported by the Center:

Sen. Hillary Clinton: “I believe we are safer than we were.” – June 3, 2007
Terrorism Index Experts: A huge majority, 91 percent, believe the world is growing more dangerous for Americans and the United States.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani: “I support the president’s increase in troops. Even more importantly, I support the change in strategy. . . .” – January 10, 2007
Terrorism Index Experts: The majority, 83 percent, believe the surge has had either a negative impact or no impact at all on the war in Iraq.

Sen. John McCain: “We lose this war and come home, they’ll follow us home.” – March 10, 2007
Terrorism Index Experts: Nearly 9 in 10 say that they do not believe terrorist attacks would occur inside the United States as the result of a withdrawal from Iraq.

Sen. Barack Obama: “We must maintain the isolation of Hamas.” – March 2, 2007
Terrorism Index Experts: More than 70 percent believe the United States should engage, not isolate, Hamas.

Gov. Mitt Romney: “This is a time . . . to increase our diplomatic isolation of Iran.” –February 18, 2007
Terrorism Index Experts: Eight in 10 support engaging in bilateral dialogue with Tehran over its nuclear program.

Sen. John Edwards: “[Congress] should correct its mistake and use its constitutional funding power to force an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.” – July 10, 2007
Terrorism Index Experts: Almost 80 percent of the experts oppose an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

Conclusion: It is not surprising that the statements of political leaders who are competing for national office are at odds with the more measured positions of experts from defense, industry, and academia. However, the most critical issue may be the question not asked: Do we have effective strategies to win the War on Terror, and are they on track? The future security of the nation hinges on the answer.

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