As we approach the ninth anniversary of 9/11, everyone is fixated on some idiot who plans to burn the Koran. Many are pleading with him not to do it, yet he still insists. If he doesn’t do it, the “terrorists win,” you see. But the terrorists have already won. That this man even wants to burn the Koran is actually part of that triumph, and that we are all talking about it is simply the latest chapter in their victory.

Many believe America changed after 9/11. It did. A ragtag band of terrorists successfully drew the most powerful military in the world into countries that barely had militaries, where we invented or deepened conflicts that should have never been conflicts, the benefit of which went mostly to al-Qaeda, as that outfit now possesses the greatest recruitment tool imaginable–the flailing foreign policy of a belligerent American empire. If we’re honest, since day one, the War on Terror has actually been a war for it–with the decade-long occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq creating a net result of record high anti-American sentiment, far worse than it was before 9/11–which is the reason there even was a 9/11. The irony is as thick as it is tragic. Today, this president show no signs or intention of wanting to correct, or simply stop making, the mistakes of the last one, and radical Islamists and neoconservatives alike continue to salivate over the possibility of new conflicts.

And this is just overseas. Here at home,19 hijackers scared a nation of 300 million people into supporting not only endless and fruitless wars, but security measures and government expansion without precedent in their size, expense, and absurdity. The 9/11 terrorists wanted to induce fear, and they did–beyond their wildest dreams. Writes CNN’s Fareed Zakaria for Newsweek:

I do not minimize Al Qaeda’s intentions, which are barbaric. I question its capabilities. In every recent conflict, the United States has been right about the evil intentions of its adversaries but massively exaggerated their strength. In the 1980s, we thought the Soviet Union was expanding its power and influence when it was on the verge of economic and political bankruptcy. In the 1990s, we were certain that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear arsenal. In fact, his factories could barely make soap… . Nine years after 9/11, can anyone doubt that Al Qaeda is simply not that deadly a threat? Since that gruesome day in 2001, once governments everywhere began serious countermeasures, Osama bin Laden’s terror network has been unable to launch a single major attack on high-value targets in the United States and Europe. While it has inspired a few much smaller attacks by local jihadis, it has been unable to execute a single one itself. Today, Al Qaeda’s best hope is to find a troubled young man who has been radicalized over the Internet, and teach him to stuff his underwear with explosives.

Author Bruce Fein has made the case that if the United States took the troop-to-enemy ratio currently in the Middle East and applied it to World War II, America would have stationed three billion soldiers in Europe alone, ten times the size of the current U.S. population. Fein also points out that even though there are about 14,000 murders annually in the U.S., the very thought of an increased police state to address this is anathema to most Americans–yet there is a bipartisan consensus on the need for a national-security state, massively overblown to address a massively exaggerated threat. Writes Zakaria:

Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has created or reconfigured at least 263 organizations to tackle some aspect of the war on terror. The amount of money spent on intelligence has risen by 250 percent, to $75 billion (and that’s the public number, which is a gross underestimate). That’s more than the rest of the world spends put together. Thirty-three new building complexes have been built for intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet-the equivalent of 22 U.S. Capitols or three Pentagons. Five miles southeast of the White House, the largest government site in 50 years is being built-at a cost of $3.4 billion-to house the largest bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs: the Department of Homeland Security, which has a workforce of 230,000 people.

This is insane, and yet to say so is the quickest way to prove your own insanity. Defenders of the last president love to claim that “Bush kept us safe.” No, he kept us stupid.

And Obama is no different. After 9/11, most Americans and indeed the entire world understood the logic of going into Afghanistan, but a decade later, no one understands the reason we are still there, what it has to do with fighting terrorism, what we were ever doing in Iraq, and how either war could possibly prevent another attack. The only reason an American would even think to burn a Koran and the media would think to cover it–and we all would have to worry about it–is because the U.S. has now militarily engaged the Arab world to a degree every bit as extreme as what the 9/11 hijackers hoped they might provoke. The War on Terror is by definition a war without end, and we now seem to have permanently institutionalized it, both domestically and abroad, with literally no end in sight.

On this ninth anniversary of 9/11, ask this: Where else in history have so few men accomplished so much? And where else in history has a nation so powerful, so quickly become its own worst enemy–all in the name of exacting revenge against so few men?