What to Do to Prevent Another 9/11 and How to Fight the War on Terror
On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda caught many Americans off guard. With the exception of a few intelligence officers and politicians who had access to classified information, no one imagined that a foreign terrorist organization could attack the United States with such a precise and deadly strike. The attack left around 3,000 Americans dead, many others crippled and scarred (both physically and psychologically) caused billions of dollars worth damage to American people and the state, and fundamentally affected the American society. In response to 9/11, the U.S. government unleashed a war on terror to prevent another attack and defeat terrorism once and forever. The effort turned out to be partly successful -- no attack has been carried out against America on its soil since then -- and partly a failure since al-Qaeda still exists and the threat of terrorism against America has not disappeared. Therefore, much needs to be done to defeat terrorism. In this paper, I will delve into specific policies that the U.S. government needs to pursue to be successful in these efforts.
What to do to prevent another 9/11 and how to fight the war on terror? This is a question that should bother most Americans but unfortunately it does not. As Patrick Coaty (2009) writes in his book Understanding the War on Terror, most Americans respond to the question of war on terror with a mixture of ignorance and apathy. This is not only the fault of citizens. The government routinely wants citizens to be simply busy with their daily activities. A few days after 9/11, President George W. Bush told the American people "to go home and go shopping." This has led to a number of problems. Many Americans through years remained ignorant of war on terror and when the time came for a few sacrifices, many Americans began to balk at government out of ignorance that the United States was fighting a "fictitious" war on terror (to mention one out of a long list of outlandish conspiratorial theories). Public apathy also led to lessening of the focus on war on terror. Many politicians, public intellectuals, and the media commentators downplay the importance of fighting against terror. For instance, during the initial stage of war on terror, at the time when there was bipartisan consensus on most of the issues and the world's sympathy with the United States, President Bush decided to talk about issues of lesser significance such as Social Security, letting "the country re-focus off the War on Terror" (Coaty 140).
If I were in charge, I would make the war on terror a number one priority again. It is crucial for the government and the public to realize that we are at war and it is real. The threat emanating from al-Qaeda is of immense proportions, unprecedented, calculated. There is no room for failure and inaction here. Al-Qaeda is not shy of using every devious method at their disposal to weaken and hurt America. While suicide attacks are deadly enough, al-Qaeda has proven to have numerous other options its operators could resort to. Osama bin Laden's first recruits were not warriors but chemical scientists from the former Soviet Union. Bin Laden used them to produce the most lethal type of heroine with three purposes in mind: earn easy money, undermine societies in Western Europe and North America, and to prove that the West was corrupt, thus justifying "attacks against the West and particularly the United States" (Coaty 98). Even more dangerous is the threat of nuclear terrorism al-Qaeda may use to kill as many civilians as possible. By making the war on terror the number one priority, I would encourage the law enforcement agencies continue their struggle against prevention and defeat of terrorist groups. I also would encourage the public to be socially and intellectually vested in the war on terror. If the public is aware of the magnitude of the threat and the activities of the law enforcement agencies, misunderstandings over civil liberties and the questions of security between the American government and the American people would be minimized.
To prevent another 9/11, I would allocate more resources for intelligence. Without proper and effective intelligence, the U.S. military and the law enforcement agencies are more likely to commit errors. It is clear now that there was intelligence failure behind America's decision to go to war against Iraq in 2003. Saddam Hussein was a sponsor of terror against Israel and he once had weapons of mass destruction, but it turned out there were none at the time of invasion. The war in Iraq damaged America's reputation around the world and we have also shifted our focus off Afghanistan-Pakistan area where main al-Qaeda operatives were located. Without proper intelligence, the CIA and the FBI might wrongly target and punish moderate voices among Muslims, alienating them in the process and further damaging America's credibility. And finally, intelligence was crucial for finding Osama bin Laden's whereabouts and liquidating him on May 2, 2011.
Preventing another 9/11 also requires granting law enforcement agencies with greater power. In times of war, the need to provide citizens with civil liberties may clash with the need to provide national security. I would prioritize national security over civil liberties. As Coaty argues, the American Constitution is "not a suicide pact." It guarantees civil liberties but, since terrorists have proven to use vulnerabilities in the American political system, it is essential to allow the law enforcement agencies do their job. This is not to say that I would ignore privacy and civil liberty concerns. Citizens' privacy concerns are justified. But national security concerns are unquestionably more important. Times of war and crises may necessitate certain law enforcement intrusions into citizen privacy as a temporary measure. Citizens must be ready to give up some of these rights for a greater good -- that is, security and safety of the nation and the protection of democratic ideals in the long run.
In terms of carrying out the war on terror, I would recommend a series of policies to make the use of our power and resources efficient. I would allocate more resources for Predator drone programs, Special Forces operations, and targeted killings. These tactics are more efficient and effective than the full-scale use of the U.S. military. I would encourage the Congress and the public to pursue programs that would decrease our dependence on oil. Since support for terrorist groups come from Gulf States rich with oil, decreasing the price of oil will cut the funds of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. I would also implement operations intended to disrupt drug cartels that support al-Qaeda. Criminalizing and imposing high taxes on drugs might be one of the effective ways of decreasing the price of drugs and thus cutting sources of funding for terrorist organizations that benefit from illegal drug trading (Coaty, 139).
I would also re-evaluate our policy of support for Middle Eastern authoritarian governments. Traditionally, the United States has supported repressive governments in the Middle East that were against Communism during the Cold War. In the post-Cold War era, the U.S. has supported repressive governments that fought against al-Qaeda. While the logic behind such policies is understandable, there is also a backlash against such policies that may be detrimental to war on terror. For example, overthrowing the Iranian Prime Minister and installing the Shah of Iran in 1953 was a deep "strategic mistake" (Coaty, 1974). The Shah's repression of its own population while receiving American aid led to resentments against America. Anti-American radicals continue to exploit such historical mistakes in their propaganda campaigns. Continuing to blindly support Middle Eastern dictators will make it much harder for the United States to win the "hearts…