The Real National Security Crisis
Soon Condaleeza Rice will testify before the 9/11 commission. And she will lie and say that the Bush administration was focused on terrorism. But, Richard Clarke was correct in his assessment that the Bush administration didn't get the problem about terrorism before 9/11 and it seems that they don't really get the problem even now, 2+ years after 9/11.
The problem with the Bush administration is that their definition of terrorism comes down to "anyone that disagrees with Bush", aka the evil ones. Bush says that anyone that resists American rule hates freedom and they hate Americans because we love freedom. Thus, the insurgents in Iraq are terrorists. The people locked up in Gitmo are also all terrorists even if they are only children. Citizens that donate money to Islamic charities support terrorists. And remember those ads that said teenagers that used drugs aided and abetted terrorists? Then there are the hardline environmentalists - they are eco-terrorists and subject to harsh prosecution. Saddam was a terrorist. In Bush's mind, there are terrorists everywhere. No wonder he thinks that the flypaper theory of terrorism will make the world safer, because in his fantasy world, terrorists will go to Iraq to fight with the terrorist insurgents and forget about bothering us here.
Yet, because anything and everything is defined as terrorism and because everything the Bush administration does (including invading Iraq) is seen as another battle front on the war on terrorism, they have diminished our ability to address the really dangerous terrorism that our country and our world faces today.
Stateless terrorism is the real problem that faces our world. And the Bush administration's obsession with Iraq and "rogue states" has been a serious distraction to finding effective ways to address this problem.
In the 90s, the Bush administration grabbed onto the theories of Laurie Mylroie instead of actually reviewing what was actually happening in the world. Ms Mylroie provided the philosophical framework that the neocons thought made sense of the world and she believed that Saddam backed all terrorism against the US in the 90s. Thus she wrote that Timothy McVeigh (a US born and bred, but misguided, American who really did believe he was being a Patriot) was a tool of Saddam Hussein. How did she think that happened? Did Saddam have special mesmerizing skills that could control the right wing militia to destroy the US? By the time Bush came into office, almost everyone on his staff believed the strange and fully discredited theories that Ms. Mylroie espoused. In their minds, terrorism only happens when a state supports it and therefore, can be deterred by bombs and protected against by missile defense.
Yup, Timothy McVeigh would never have done what he did if Saddam hadn't personally backed McVeigh's plans. Sure. Why not. And the sun really revolves around the earth. And Mylroie and her backers don't have to provide you any proof, because they already know the truth. (Perhaps she also has a direct line to God?)
Yet, today, experts in terrorism know what we are up against. Rather than being cowed and beaten down by the acts of the Bush administration, the terrorists have been learning new tricks. One of the more frightening new tricks that the al Qaeda and that ilk has learned has had an American grown twist: leaderless resistance.
Early last year before Bush started the war, many experts warned that invading Iraq would increase the danger from terrorism. One year later, Jessica Stern, a noted terrorism expert, provided some solid and frightening analysis showing that Bush's actions have indeed opened Pandora's box (Salon - subscription or ad required).
But the greatest threat America faces today does not stem from "rogue states" but from weak ones and the terrorist groups and purveyors of WMD that thrive within their borders. This has been clear to some of us who have dealt with terrorism for a decade or more. After 9/11, the fixation on enemy states as the most important threat to U.S. national security can no longer be seen as just quaintly old-fashioned. It is now a dangerous fixation. Rogue individuals and groups are not only the most important source of danger with regard to terrorist threats to American civilians, but -- as the case of Dr. A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb who traded his knowledge to the North Koreans and others, makes painfully clear -- they are also important sources of weapons of mass destruction and expertise.
Moreover, by attacking Iraq without sufficient preparations for creating a functioning state, we have created precisely what the Bush administration had identified as a major threat to world security: a weak state unable to police its borders or to maintain a monopoly on violence. Failed and failing states can no longer be viewed exclusively as humanitarian crises, but must be seen as threats to international security because of the opportunities they offer to terrorists. The Bush administration claimed to have learned this lesson from the events of 9/11. The 2002 National Security Strategy declared that the events of that day "taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders." But the decision to attack Iraq, ignoring all efforts by the State Department to create a blueprint for a functioning state, suggests that the lesson was learned only in a theoretical sense.
When Condi is asked about whether the Bush administration was focused on terrorism, I hope they make sure she has to answer what she has done to address the stateless and leaderless terrorists who are not deferred by missile defense nor even invasion. And what is she personally doing to rectify her mistakes now?