On the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the great policy question is whether the Bush administration’s approach to the War on Terror has made us safer. Prepping for his 2008 presidential run, Sen. John Kerry on Saturday asserted that Bush had made us less safe. Although the Bush administration has many notable failures, Kerry’s case as he presents it is unconvincing.
By going to war in Iraq instead of concentrating on defeating al-Qaeda, Bush has “widened the terrorist threat instead of defeating it,” Kerry said.
“There is simply no way to overstate how Iraq has subverted our efforts to free the world from global terror. It has overstretched our military. It has served as an essential recruitment tool for terrorists. It has divided and pushed away our traditional allies. It has diverted critical billions of dollars from the real front lines against terrorism and from homeland security.”p>In an op-ed for the New Hampshire Union Leader this past weekend, Kerry said : br> /p>
Iraq has made America less safe. The terrorists are not on the run. Terrorist acts tripled between 2004 and 2005. Al-Qaida has spawned a decentralized network operating in 65 countries, most of them joining since 9/11. Only Dick Cheney could call this a success.br> (Incidentally, Kerry launched this attack while slamming Bush for politicizing 9/11.)
It’s time to refocus our military efforts from the failed occupation of Iraq to what we should have been doing all along: destroying al-Qaida. We need to redeploy troops from Iraq — keep up the training and counter-terror operations, establish an over the horizon military capacity — and free up resources to fight the War on Terror.
But has the Bush administration really lost sight of destroying al-Qaeda? Has terrorism become more of a threat?
Since 9/11, the United States and its allies have destroyed more than 75 percent of al-Qaeda. That statistic does not come from the White House press office. Washington Post reporter Dana Priest noted it in a talk at the Cato Institute last week. Priest, whom no one would call an apologist for or ally of the administration, also noted how the Bush administration skillfully used diplomatic relationships — particularly with France — to pursue, capture, detain and interrogate al Qaeda terrorists. Through a combination of military force and diplomacy, the United States has crippled al Qaeda.
Not only has the United States done exactly what Kerry and his fellow Democrats claim has not been done — use diplomatic relationships to decimate the group that attacked us on 9/11 — but the war in Iraq has marginalized al-Qaeda in the Muslim world. That is one of the conclusions of a new report released last week by the UK’s Royal Institute for International Affairs, also known as Chatham House
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