A recent federal study of the War on Terrorism noted the successof two tactics of the Bush Administration that are being continued by the Obama Administration. The tactics have contributed to a decrease in attacks by al-Qaeda from the previous year.
The first tactic is the use of armed unmanned drones. The Bush Administration had developed a plan by the day before September 11, 2001 and was able to put it into use quickly in the War on Terrorism, taking out al-Qaeda's third in command, Muhammad Atef, who was in charge of military operations, early in the war. The Bush Administration deployed the drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in Yemen and Somalia. The Obama Administration has continued to use the drones in those same places, recently taking out the imam who had inspired the Ft. Hood shooter in Yemen. It has stepped up the number of drone attacks in Pakistan.
The second tactic is the Bush Administration's highly praised efforts to freeze terrorist funding. For example, within a few years after September 11, the United States had succeeded in freezing over $100 million in al-Qaeda funding, despite the challenges of identifying the funds. Indeed, this tactic has been one of the most effective in the War on Terrorism.
The report, however, noted an increase in overall terrorist attacks from the previous year. The published reports did not elaborate on the definition of terrorism used for the report. For example, attacks on the U.S. and coalition military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are not terrorist attacks, as terrorism is the targeting of innocent civilians. In previous years, attacks outside of these fronts in the War on Terrorism have declined, with deaths for Americans being rare (e.g. in one recent extraordinary calendar year, there were no American fatalities from terrorism).
Nevertheless, if attacks committed by terrorists other than al-Qaeda increased last year, then the danger from terrorism overall is underscored. As I have noted in earlier posts, it is called the “War on Terrorism,” not the “War on al-Qaeda” for good reason: there are many militant Muslim jihadis around the world, in addition to other terrorists like various Communists, who continue to represent a threat to Americans and other free peoples. This point is important to understand for several reasons: 1) the U.S. counterterrorism strategy must be focused on all threats, not just al-Qaeda, and not just from Muslims, 2) those who sponsor terrorism financially or by providing safe haven to terrorists like al-Qaeda, such as the Taliban, must also be defeated, and 3) eliminating state sponsors of other terrorists, like Iraq's Saddam Hussein, or getting them to renounce terrorism, as Libya did, is imperative.
U.S. President George W. Bush's comprehensive counterterrorism strategy has been successful against al-Qaeda. It also produced a number of spectacular results against other terrorist threats, in addition to Iraq and Libya, such as the breakup of the Pakistani nuclear smuggling ring, the international interdiction against North Korean arms proliferation, and Columbia's increased success against its Marxist narco-terrorists because of better American aid.
That President Barak Obama has been continuing some of Bush's most successful policies is a testimony to their effectiveness, despite Obama's often wreckless rhetoric and occasional backsliding towards September 10 policies that treat terrorism as a criminal matter, instead of an act of war. Conservatives must continue to urge the Obama Administration to focus on all terrorist threats and to take all of the necessary measures to safeguard American soldiers and civilians at home and abroad.