September 11, 2018


The 1988 meeting that shaped the world we live in (Peter Bergen, 9/11/18, CNN)

Al-Qaeda has not successfully directed a deadly attack inside the United States since that day 17 years ago. Nor has any other jihadist foreign terrorist organization.

That represents a major success for the United States' counterterrorism effort since 9/11. Few analysts in the months and years after the attacks would have predicted that the United States would be so successful in avoiding attacks.
Thanks to the hard work of law enforcement and intelligence agencies and the military, as well as the public's greater awareness, the threat to the homeland today is far more limited than it was on 9/11. This has certainly come at a price -- trillions in spending, unprecedented security measures at airports and public venues, and roiling public debate over immigration and law enforcement.

Yet, the United States still faces a new and different jihadist threat: individuals motivated by jihadist ideology, but with no operational direction from a foreign terrorist organization. Such individuals have carried out 13 lethal attacks and killed 104 people in the United States since the 9/11 attacks, according to research by New America.

The rise of al-Qaeda's breakaway faction, ISIS, took this threat to a new level. Three-quarters of the people killed by jihadist extremists in the United States since 9/11 have been killed since 2014, the year ISIS declared its caliphate. Eight of the 13 lethal attacks in the US since 9/11 occurred in that time period, and seven were motivated in part by ISIS' propaganda. In 2015, an unprecedented 80 Americans were accused of jihadist-terrorism-related crimes, almost all inspired in some way by ISIS, according to New America's research.

Yet even at its height of power in Iraq and Syria, ISIS did not direct a lethal attack inside the United States.
With the territorial collapse of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the threat to the United States has waned further. The number of jihadist terrorism cases involving Americans has declined every year since its peak of the 80 cases in 2015. As of the end of August, only eight Americans had been charged with jihadist-terrorism-related crimes in 2018.

Despite much fear over the threat posed by "foreign fighters" -- those Westerners who joined ISIS and other militant groups abroad -- few Americans succeeded in joining ISIS. Fewer still returned. There is only one known case of an American who fought in Syria or Iraq plotting violence after returning to the United States, and no returnee has actually conducted an attack.
...was how easily it was won.  And while our leaders and national security/law enforcement members deserve some significant credit, the ease of the victory was mainly a function of the weakness of the opponent.  Where Left/Right wished to see the Salafi as offering a rival to the End of History, you can not have a clash of civilizations where there is only one.  Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc. offered no coherent alternative to democracy, capitalism, protestantism, so had no way of appealing to a mass audience.  Indeed, rather than make the Arab world more totalitarian, their attacks have made it more democratic.  Indeed, our losses in the WoT have come at our own hands, when we failed to embrace elected Islamist political parties vindicating democratic self-determination: Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt.  Our Realism in these instances has backfired sufficiently that we may, hopefully, have learned our lesson.  

My personal worry at the time of 9-11 was that we might retreat from the field before we had finished toppling the worst regimes, particularly Assad's.  As we saw in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Raqqa, it is extremely simple to destroy an evil regime provided that it is actually functioning as a state.  This is why ISIS and the Taliban are not, and never were, genuine threats.  To precisely the extent that they win--centralize their power--they make themselves easy targets for our military might.   We can decapitate them at virtually no cost to ourselves.  Now that we have used Assad (and Putin and Iran) to fight ISIS for us, it is time to do the same to him.  Just make an offer he can't refuse: elections or Hellfire.

Posted by at September 11, 2018 8:14 AM