Food for Thought
This article (it's 7 pages long) by James Fallows in the Atlantic Monthly is almost a year old, but there's a lot of food for thought in it. It's an assessment of how the first five post-9/11 years have looked from al-Qaeda's perspective, based on interviews with a lot of people considered "experts" on the situation.
I don't know what an expert on the Global War on Terror is, but I know I'm not one, so I really can't say if the assessments in the article are true or not. But they make a fair amount of good sense to me. Basically what he says is that things haven't been going too well for al-Qaeda, but what has gone well for them has been due to America's mistakes.
There are a lot of other points in the article, too, both big and small, and it's worth reading. What I'm really not sold on, though, is the conclusion he makes in the last couple of pages, that the U.S. should basically "declare victory" on terrorism while still recognizing that it's out there. It has the distinct smell of "Mission Accomplished" to me, and, of course, if a big bomb were to explode the next day, well, how would that look? Also, of course, Osama bin Laden is still at large.
Come to think of it, though, what exactly is the exit strategy on the Global War on Terror? We've had enough trouble coming up with measurable objectives, much less meeting them, in Iraq. How do we declare that we're back in the pre-9/11 era and everybody can let their guard down again? I don't know if we ever can. But what can we do, and when?
One thing the article touches on is that there are the things we're doing that are making a difference --- like monitoring international bank transactions --- and there are things that are basically for show. Are both necessary? I've been flying a lot lately, and I have mixed feelings about the airport security. I've accidentally brought hair gel onto a plane, for example, and it wasn't detected. But it does seem like it would at least take some effort to bring weapons onto a plane; you can't just stroll on with a box cutter, the door to the cockpit is reinforced, and post-Flight 93 passengers aren't going to be so compliant with hijackers anymore.