With 9/11’s tenth anniversary approaching, I thought I’d quickly re-post my past anniversary posts. I’ll write something longer soon – although I keep thinking of Zhou Enlai, saying it is too soon to assess the impact.
Here is a link to what I wrote on 9/11 that was published in NRO. It was entitled Freedom First and argued that promoting freedom through active diplomacy was in our national security interest. It noted the mad ideologies and conspiracy theories that prevailed throughout the greater Middle East and how they were propagated by the region’s dictatorships. I concluded writing:
These are just a few of the options available to the United States to promote freedom — there are many other programs. These important programs are relatively inexpensive — budgets are in the tens of millions of dollars. None of them will bring quick results, but given time they can — combined with a robust and assertive U.S. diplomacy supporting human rights — ameliorate some of the prevailing anti-American ideologies. The war against terrorism promises to be a long one, and expanding freedom is an essential strategy that will undercut terrorism’s base of support. While it cannot replace the necessary military response, an offensive for freedom is a deadly weapon against tyranny and the terrorism it spawns.
Two years ago, on 9/11 I wrote an analysis arguing that we have had tremendous counter-terror success at preventing major attacks in the west. The fact that national security experts were so worried about “lone wolves” shows the relative decline of the threat. But the danger of terrorism destabilizing important countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia (for starters) and that this could have important repercussions geopolitically (as well as sparking civil conflicts that could take thousands of lives.) I finish, echoing my first response to 9/11:
Sending troops to all of these hotspots is both unfeasible and would probably only make things worse. Developing the levers to maintain stability and ameliorate some of the underlying conditions that create the instability is a tall order. That is the hard part.