A decade after 9/11 it is hoped America’s security establishment better understands what threats we face of which the attacks of 9/11 were one facet. The answer to that question remains incomplete. After the end of the Cold War we were attacked repeatedly by what were termed terrorists. But we never explicitly connected these attacks to two broader elements, both of which pose a mortal threat to our country and its constitution. The first was the sponsorship of terror as a tactic of a hybrid warfare being waged by states such as Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Libya against the United States and its allies. Remember, Libya supplied the majority of the terrorists attacking Iraq traveling the rat lines through Syria. The second was the extent to which these states used what I term “jihadis” to do their dirty work and infiltrated such groups or created them for their own murderous purposes (Hezbollah, the Taliban and Hamas, for example).
Taking down the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq appeared to recognize the role of states in the threat we face but we never carefully connected the two regimes to the terrorism we faced. Yes, the Taliban gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda and yes Saddam gave support and funding to terrorists. But both efforts soon were transformed into nation-building under the idea that governments at least a modest stone’s throw from some elements of “democracy” might be less hospitable to supporting, training and financing terrorists, especially if these same countries were to develop biological and nuclear weapons with which to surreptitiously attack the United States and its allies.
So America remains confused—why are we in Iraq if Al Qaeda primarily remains in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere? And this is where things got complicated, unnecessarily. The drive-by media had a template or narrative of the origins of the terror attacks against us especially on 9/11. Al Qaeda, we were told endlessly, had grievances against us especially the lack of a Palestinian state.
But 9/11 was an attack not of Al Qaeda operatives, anymore than mob hits are solely the work of “button men”. The earlier World Trade Center attack in 1993 was not an Al Qaeda operation but one connected to Iraq. Saddam wrote checks of $300,000 to Al Qaeda’s number two leader. Also, Iran helped the 9/11 operatives travel unnoticed to and from their training centers, a fact now confirmed by a US court.
And so successive president’s devoted enormous time to the “peace process” which inexplicitly was to include Syria, which is a card-carrying member of the axis of terror that is at war with us! But the terror states do not want peace with us or two states living together—a Palestinian state and the state of Israel. They want to bring us down.
And added to this poisonous brew are the Muslim clerics and Imams and self-appointed leaders who seek to spread the cults of Wahhabism and Khomeinism along with their totalitarian culture we call “sharia”. So we face not only hybrid warfare—those using our vulnerabilities against us. We face a hybrid enemy—states and terror groups. They appear to attack randomly; they claim to be righteous; they claim to represent all Muslims; or they claim a right to hegemonic empire. But their murderous ways are no different than the murderous ways of the original state sponsor of terrorism the Soviet Union. It is also not coincidence that Soviet client states included Syria, Libya and Iraq! And now Iran and Syria, among others.
The liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan can end up of benefit to this country and her allies. The Arab Spring, having grown out of a vegetable cart owner burning himself alive, was not aimed at expanding some Muslim empire over the earth or even the Middle East. It was aimed at the brutal regimes—many of them state sponsors of terrorism—that deny opportunity and liberty to hundreds of millions of people. Whether the future expands liberty or extends the totalitarian darkness of the mullahs in Iran and the clerics in Afghanistan is the great challenge of this new century.