Two years down in the war on terror. How many more to go? We
But, given the patience and determination of our enemies -- and
the fact that two armed conflicts have yet to dampen their
enthusiasm for attacking America -- it's safe to say we have much
more work ahead of us than behind us.
America's enemies have demonstrated their staying power -- they
spent seven years planning the attacks on New York and Washington
-- and we must demonstrate ours. We'll have to spend billions of
dollars and suffer more casualties before we prevail.
Asking if Americans are safer now than they were two years ago
poses the wrong question. We can forget about ever being "safe"
from terrorism again. But we can reasonably expect that terrorists
won't run our lives or attack us with impunity -- and that we'll
thrive even as we hound our enemies until they join the Soviets in
the back pages of history books.
But it will take time. Before this is over, the time we spent
defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam's forces in Iraq
will be to the timeline of the war on terror as the Korean war and
the proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan were to the
Cold War -- relatively brief flashpoints of action in a long,
Such a war requires our leaders to understand that our staying
power, our will to win, is as important as any weapon in our
arsenal. Our enemies doubt this. Saddam Hussein said before the
first Gulf War that Americans wouldn't tolerate "10,000 dead in one
battle." Osama bin Laden said he was emboldened to direct the Sept.
11 attacks because watching support wane for the American operation
in Somalia "convinced us America is a paper tiger."
Curiously, the public seems to understand the difficulty of the
task better than our representatives in Congress. A poll taken in
July by The Wall Street Journal and NBC found that 58
percent of Americans think we should stay in Iraq "as long as
necessary to complete the process, even if it takes as long as five
years." Even after the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was
bombed, a Newsweek poll found 70 percent supported maintaining
current force levels in Iraq for more than a year, and more than
half favored staying 10 years or more if necessary.
Our history argues for patience, too. The National Security Act
of 1947 created a unified defense department and the CIA, the
nation's two premier Cold War weapons. But it took about a decade
for these organizations to figure out how best to fight the Russian
bear. The instruments used to fight the Soviets -- NATO, our
nuclear arsenal and military assistance programs -- emerged during
The focus that brought victory over the Soviets emerged over
time as well. President Truman at first shelved NSC-68, the master
plan to confront the Russians. Defense budgets shrank. The American
people were consumed with finding their place in the postwar
But the Korean War, with losses far exceeding anything seen in
the war on terror, brought the Cold War to Main Street. President
Eisenhower took office with a clear mandate and a new strategy to
build a strong economy, preserve our open society and organize
defenses for the long term.
President Bush sees himself in the Eisenhower mode. He wants to
lay the groundwork to win the long war against terrorism. It won't
be easy. The Department of Homeland Security, which combined 22
federal agencies, will need several years to become truly
Still, President Bush needs to continue to remind Americans of
his plans for homeland security. He needs to rein in spending on
new security initiatives. Funding for homeland security has more
than doubled since the 9/11 attacks. To add more funds before these
are absorbed and committed wisely would be wasteful and
The Department of Homeland Security needs to get organized and
develop a national response plan as well as strategies for
information technology, intelligence sharing and personnel needs.
Congress needs to supply funding for emergency responders,
intelligence reforms and chemical infrastructure security. State
and local governments need to develop regional cooperation plans,
share information and methods, and work with the Department of
Homeland Security to develop a true national emergency response
Vast vulnerabilities remain. Two years after 9/11, we need
to re-affirm our national commitment to defeating the long-term
threat of global terrorism.
James Jay Carafano, author of "Waltzing into the Cold War:
The Struggle for Occupied Austria," is a senior research fellow for
defense and homeland security at The Heritage Foundation.
Distributed nationally on the Knight-Ridder Tribune wire
Given the patience and determination of our enemies -- and the fact that two armed conflicts have yet to dampen their enthusiasm for attacking America -- it's safe to say we have much more work ahead of us than behind us.
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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