This editorial by Prof. Bowen was published in the News Leader (Staunton VA: September 8, 2010): A9.
by Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Professor, Depts. of Political Science and of International Relations, Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
Since it sometimes is difficult to read every word of a scanned article (as above), here is a clear copy of the original version of this editorial for readers' reference. Links to sources supporting various facts cited also are supplied below:
In what formerly was known as the Global War on Terrorism, things always are getting better… except when they’re not.
Attentive news hounds will remember that in the last years of the Bush Presidency, our “surge” strategy in Iraq was said to have won the day, wooing over Sunnis formerly sympathetic with Al Qaeda in Iraq, and leading to the near defeat of that branch of Osama bin Laden’s minions. It sounded like little more than mopping up was needed, … until Al Qaeda in Iraq blasted us back to reality. In late August 2010, more than two dozen simultaneous bombings, spanning 14 cities, seared Iraq.
Similarly, a steady chorus from the Barack Obama Administration has told us again and again how isolated the Muslim extremists are worldwide, and how tiny, how thoroughly disrupted Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan-Pakistan. In June 2009, friendly news coverage presented Obama speaking in Cairo, accenting his positive reception when he told Egyptians of our shared struggle against the violent, but “small minority of Muslims.” Few Americans heard then of polls of Egyptians released earlier that year that showed more than 80 percent to support those who attack our troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq. By December, Obama’s National Security Advisor, Gen. James Jones, was telling CNN that Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was down to “less than 100” fighters. In May 2010, according to John Brennan, Obama’s top counter-terrorism advisor in the White House, the threat worldwide had acquired similar dimensions, one of “a small band of cowards who hide in the shadows.” But, in reality, U.S. casualties in Afghanistan are up, not down; and more jihadist attacks on the mainland United States have taken place in the last 12 months than in any other similar period since 9/11. Think Fort Hood.
The Obama team certainly is not alone in preferring to see through rose colored glasses. A year ago, Richard Barrett, head of the United Nation’s group charged with monitoring Al Qaeda and formerly a top British counter-terrorism official, claimed the group to be “losing credibility” and of conducting rinky-dink operations that “have not awed people.” Barrett’s claim that Al Qaeda “hasn’t really made a connection to a new generation” sounded credible, … until a Christmas 2009 air bomber from Nigeria appeared over Detroit, or a Times Square bomb plot by a Pakistani-American residing in Connecticut (May 2010) woke some of us up.
But in the new discourse of countering terrorism, singing a siren song gives the audience what it wants to hear, even if it isn’t true. In late August 2010, a spokesman for the government of Yemen confidently claimed that his country needed no U.S. help to finish off the terrorists there. In his view, “Al Qaeda is now seeing big declines in its ranks,” since Yemeni security forces were up to the task of “annihilating al Qaeda elements and whatever destructive elements assist them.” But their best efforts and earlier U.S. help in trying to capture the U.S.-born Al Qaeda leader in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, has yielded precisely nothing. Al-Awlaki, of course, was the internet mentor of Fort Hood shooter U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan.
Nine years after 9/11, a serious national security threat continues to arise from Islamist terrorism. Inconvenient as this is to the other agendas pursued by politicians, the American people have a right to insist that their officials take reality, not their preferred visions, as the guide to national security policy. The Obama team prefers not to speak of a “global war,” and would like to imagine that these “violent extremists” are some sort of rare deviants. But fanaticism keeps spreading, not disappearing: a massacre of 64 watching televised World Cup soccer in Uganda in June, the brutal kidnap-execution of 15 Somali parliamentarians in August… not to mention rising U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. Wishing this all away may seem clever, but after nine years, the killers of Al Qaeda have a way of discrediting optimists.
Gordon L. Bowen
September 7, 2010
Obama quote in Cairo: President Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on a New Beginning, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt” (June 4, 2009), http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-by-the-President-at-Cairo-University-6-04-09/
Poll of Egyptians support for attacks on US Troops: PIPA / World Public Opinion.org, Public Opinion in the Islamic World on Terrorism, al Qaeda, and U.S. Policies (College Park, MD: Program on International Policy Attitudes, February 25, 2009), 9-10, http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/feb09/STARTII_Feb09_rpt.pdf
Gen. Jones quote: John King, “Transcripts: State of the Union with John King” CNN Television USA (December 6, 2009): http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0912/06/sotu.01.html
Brennan quote: John Brennan, “Securing the Homeland by Renewing American Strength, Resilience and Values” (Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., May 26, 2010), http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-assistant-president-homeland-security-and-counterterrorism-john-brennan-csi
Richard Barrett quote: Karen DeYoung and Walter Pincus, "Success Against Al-Qaeda Cited," Washington Post (September 30, 2009): 15.
Yemeni official quote: Reuters, “Yemen rejects increased U.S. role in Al Qaeda fight,” (August 26, 2010): http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100826/pl_nm/us_yemen_usa
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