In the ongoing war of words over who’s more willing to fight the “War on Terror,” former Vice President Dick Cheney says President Obama has made us less safe, while Obama says the policies of Cheney made us less safe. Obama’s right–Cheney did make us less safe. And Obama continues to make us less safe precisely because he continues the policies of Bush/Cheney. Arguing between the two is like debating whether it was mistress no. 4 or 40 that finally made Tiger Woods less safe from his wife’s lawyers.
But at least Woods, deep down, had to realize his behavior might one day come back to haunt him. And now Woods is learning the hard way about that nasty constant in human nature: retribution.
Cheney and Obama, on the other hand, have learned nothing. Ignoring that 9/11 was caused primarily by Islamists seeking retribution for constant U.S. intervention in their “holy land”-something Osama Bin Laden made perfectly clear–Bush/Cheney launched a pointless war in Iraq, giving al-Qaeda its best recruiting tool in its history. In his tenure, Cheney did absolutely nothing to fight the terrorist threat–his administration invested in it. Heavily.
Obama’s wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and whichever country next strikes his fancy, is a jihadist’s dream-a new American president, who despite promising “change” seems hell-bent on continuing with the same foreign policy as the last president. When former CIA terror expert Michael Scheuer was asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” this week whether U.S. efforts had succeeded in diminishing the terrorist threat, he said bluntly “I think it’s stronger than it was before 9/11, certainly because the support and opposition across the Muslim world to American foreign policy is far greater today than it was on 9/11.”
This phenomenon of opposition to American foreign policy translating into terrorist activity is so well-established, the CIA created the term “blowback” to describe it. Cheney and Obama not only refuse to address blowback, but instead squabble over who’s more willing to use torture or increase airport harassment, a conversation which does nothing to address the root problem of why terrorists want to attack us in the first place or why there are more terrorists now than before 9/11.
Could you imagine police detectives trying to stop a serial killer while completely ignoring his motives? Or how about if police simply dismissed the murderer as “crazy,” which is probably true, as many so-called “Islamofascists” are certainly not of the same mind as you or I. Yet in order to stop such a murderer, crazy or not, law enforcement still tries to get inside his mind, paying particular attention to certain patterns.
Our leaders in Washington refuse to look at motive or patterns when it comes to trying to prevent terrorism. Instead, we are told terrorists simply “hate our freedom,” as Bush put it. Obama might not employ the same language as Bush-something some Republicans laughably find “weak,”–but to date has still not offered a more substantive explanation. Canada is far more libertine culturally than the US, and this is precisely the sort of “freedom” that supposedly gets the Islamists’ goat. Yet strangely enough, Canada does not find itself constantly having to worry about Islamic terrorism–because terrorists don’t find Canadians en masse on Islamic land.
It is past time to ask the big questions. How can invading and occupying a nation stop an individual or a collection of individuals from carrying out terrorist acts? How can invading and occupying a nation, or a handful of nations, stop a terrorist network that exists in over 80 countries? What could our presence in Iraq, stepping up the war in Afghanistan, drone strikes in Pakistan, or a new war in Yemen possibly have done to deter the so-called “underwear bomber” on Christmas day? Would the Nigerian, would-be suicide bomber have been radicalized, or would a terrorist network be as available to accommodate and encourage his radicalization, if the U.S. did not have such a massive presence in the Middle East? Do terrorists simply hate our “freedom” or is there indeed a correlation between US intervention and terrorist recruitment and activity? Hell, let’s get extreme: would completely annihilating the Middle East through nuclear war finally eliminate the terrorist threat-or create the greatest terrorist threat in our history? Might such genocide make the Islamic world mad? Or just “freedom?”
Trying to fight terrorism by opening up more battlefronts is like trying to fight alcoholism by opening up more bars. It doesn’t make any sense. No doubt, the five-deferment, Vietnam-draft-dodging Cheney still thinks his belligerent rhetoric makes him some sort of a tough guy, but it doesn’t. It makes him stupid. And sadly–and at the expense of our safety–if the definition of “stupid” is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results, both Cheney and Obama’s foreign policies certainly fit that bill.