Afterburner: What we did right

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, we have conducted plenty of navel-gazing as to what went wrong before and after the day when Americans realized that radical Islamist terrorists had been at war with us for years. Bill Whittle has a new Afterburner from PJTV that covers what we did right, primarily in taking the fight to the enemy rather than waiting for them to come to us:

Bill talks about the problem with smoking guns vis-a-vis the war in Iraq and the faulty intel that led us to believe that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled WMD — weapons that would prove devastating if he shared them with al-Qaeda. Had we waited for that exchange to occur, the “smoking gun” could well have been a smoking city in the US again if the intel produced by the US and its allies had proven accurate. But there’s another issue with Iraq that sometimes gets forgotten. We had enforced a no-fly zone in Iraq using bases in Saudi Arabia for 12 years while Saddam refused to comply with more than a dozen UN declarations. He also routinely lit up those flights with anti-aircraft radar, an act of war as a violation of the cease-fire. The sanctions regime had fallen apart, giving Saddam Hussein billions to use in oppressing his own people and fund terrorist attacks in Israel — a failure the scope of which was unclear until we crushed Saddam in 2003 and seized his regime’s records, exposing the corruption among our supposed allies. In order to operate militarily in the Gulf, we needed to end the 12-year war with Saddam one way or the other and ensure that he wouldn’t start funding AQ as well as Palestinian terrorists.

That’s the dog that didn’t bark, or one of them. Bill points out another in this presentation, which is AQ’s inability to stage another mass terrorist attack in the US. He credits the “flypaper” strategy of drawing AQ into a fight with our military in Iraq and Afghanistan with AQ’s loss of focus and operational ability, which is a fair argument but admittedly tough to prove. It would be akin to the British and French teaming up to defeat Hitler when the Nazis attempted to remilitarize and arguing that a hundred thousand deaths in 1936 would have prevented 50 million more by 1945, and perhaps the Cold War, too. In retrospect, we know that the failure of Western governments to stand up to Hitler early directly resulted in World War II, but without that outcome, it would be just as easy to paint the British and French as warmongers and hysterics attempting to distract people from a collapsing economy with a new war on the continent. That applies to Saddam as well as to AQ in this case.

The trouble with smoking guns and barking dogs is that the damage is already done in both cases. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the series of attacks from 1993 forward by al-Qaeda, it’s not hard to understand why the Bush administration didn’t want to wait for another attack to prove its case.