16 Years Af­ter 9/11: Les­sons Put Into Prac­tice?

The Jewish Voice - - FRONT PAGE - By: John R. Bolton

On Mon­day we marked the 16th an­niver­sary of al-Qaida's 9/11 at­tacks. We learned much that tragic day, at enor­mous hu­man and ma­te­rial cost. Per­ilously, how­ever, Amer­ica has al­ready for­got­ten many of Sept. 11's les­sons.

The rad­i­cal Is­lam­i­cist ide­ol­ogy man­i­fested that day has nei­ther re­ceded nor "mod­er­ated" as many naive Western­ers pre­dicted. Nei­ther has the ide­ol­ogy's ha­tred for Amer­ica or its in­cli­na­tion to con­duct ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Iran's 1979 Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion brought rad­i­cal Is­lam to the con­tem­po­rary world's at­ten­tion, and it is no less malev­o­lent to­day than when it seized our Tehran em­bassy, hold­ing U.S. diplo­mats hostage for 444 days.

The Tal­iban, which pro­vided al-Qaida sanc­tu­ary to pre­pare the 9/11 at­tacks, threaten to re­take con­trol in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida per­sists and may even be grow­ing world­wide.

While ISIS's caliphate in Syria and Iraq will not sur­vive much longer, coun­tries across North Africa and the Mid­dle East ("MENA") have desta­bi­lized or frac­tured en­tirely. Syria and Iraq have ceased to ex­ist func­tion­ally, and Libya, So­ma­lia and Ye­men have de­scended into chaos. Pak­istan, an un­sta­ble nu­clear-weapons state, could fall to rad­i­cals un­der many eas­ily pre­dictable sce­nar­ios.

The ter­ror­ist threat is com­pounded by nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion. Pak­istan has scores of nu­clear weapons, and Iran's pro­gram con­tin­ues un­hin­dered. North Korea has now con­ducted its sixth, and likely ther­monu­clear, nu­clear test, and its bal­lis­tic mis­siles are near to be­ing able to hit tar­gets across the con­ti­nen­tal United States. Py­ongyang leads the rogue's gallery of would-be nu­clear pow­ers, and is per­fectly ca­pa­ble of sell­ing its tech­nolo­gies and weapons to any­one with hard cur­rency.

Dur­ing Barack Obama's pres­i­dency, he ig­nored these grow­ing threats and dis­par­aged those who warned against them. His legacy is ter­ror­ist at­tacks through­out Europe and Amer­ica, and a blind­ness to the threat that en­cour­aged Europe to ac­cept a huge in­flux of eco­nomic mi­grants from the MENA re­gion, whose num­bers in­cluded po­ten­tially thou­sands of al­ready-com­mit­ted ter­ror­ists.

IG­NOR­ING NORTH KOREA

Obama also ig­nored North Korea, af­ford­ing it one of an as­pir­ing pro­lif­er­a­tor's most pre­cious as­sets: time. Time is what a would-be nu­clear state needs to master the com­plex sci­en­tific and tech­no­log­i­cal prob­lems it must over­come to cre­ate nu­clear weapons.

And, in a dan­ger­ous un­forced er­ror that could be con­sid­ered per­fid­i­ous if it weren't so fool­ish, Obama en­tered the 2015 Vi­enna nu­clear and mis­sile deal that has le­git­imized Tehran's ter­ror­ist gov­ern­ment, re­leased well over a hun­dred bil­lion dol­lars of frozen as­sets, and dis­solved in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic sanc­tions. Iran has re­sponded by ex­tend­ing its pres­ence in the Mid­dle East as ISIS had re­ceded, to the point where it now has tens of thou­sands of troops in Syria and is build­ing mis­sile fac­to­ries there and in Le­banon.

Be­fore 2009, pub­lish­ers would have im­me­di­ately dis­missed nov­el­ists who brought them such a plainly un­re­al­is­tic plot. To­day, how­ever, it qual­i­fies as his­tory, not fan­tasy. This is the ag­o­niz­ing legacy the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in­her­ited, com­pounded by wide­spread feel­ings among the Amer­i­can peo­ple that we have once again sac­ri­ficed Amer­i­can lives and trea­sure over­seas for pre­cious lit­tle in re­turn.

These feel­ings are un­der­stand­able, but it would be dan­ger­ous to suc­cumb to them. We didn't ask for the re­spon­si­bil­ity of stop­ping nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion or ter­ror­ism, but we are none­the­less ul­ti­mately the most at risk from both these threats.

And as we knew dur­ing the Cold War, but seem to have for­got­ten since it ended, our sur­round­ing oceans do not in­su­late us from the risk of long-dis­tance nu­clear at­tacks. We face the choice of fight­ing the ter­ror­ists on our bor­ders or in­side Amer­ica it­self, or fight­ing them where they seek to plot our demise, in the bar­ren moun­tains of Afghanistan, in the MENA deserts, and else­where.

Nor can we shel­ter be­hind a ro­bust na­tional mis­sile-de­fense ca­pa­bil­ity, hop­ing sim­ply to shoot down mis­siles from the likes of North Korea and Iran be­fore they hit their tar­gets. We do not have a ro­bust na­tional mis­sile de­fense ca­pa­bil­ity, thanks yet again to Barack Obama's dras­tic bud­get cuts.

Pres­i­dent Trump ap­pre­ci­ates that nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion and rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism are ex­is­ten­tial threats for the United States and its al­lies. Dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign, he re­peat­edly stressed his view that oth­ers should play a larger role in de­feat­ing these dan­ger­ous forces, bear­ing their fair share of the bur­den. But can­di­date Trump also un­am­bigu­ously (and en­tirely cor­rectly) called for restor­ing our de­pleted mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties

The ter­ror­ist threat is com­pounded by nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion. Pak­istan has scores of nu­clear weapons, and Iran's pro­gram con­tin­ues un­hin­dered We face the choice of fight­ing the ter­ror­ists on our bor­ders or in­side Amer­ica it­self, or fight­ing them where they seek to plot our demise, in the bar­ren moun­tains of Afghanistan, in the MENA deserts, and else­where.

be­cause he saw that Amer­i­can safety de­pended fun­da­men­tally on Amer­i­can strength.

Sept. 11 should be more than just a few mo­ments of si­lence to re­mem­ber the Twin Tow­ers fall­ing, the burn­ing Pen­tagon and the in­spir­ing hero­ism of reg­u­lar Amer­i­cans in bring­ing down United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. We should also se­ri­ously con­sider to­day's global threats. Those who made Amer­ica an ex­cep­tional coun­try did so by con­fronting re­al­ity and over­com­ing it, not by ig­nor­ing it. (GATESTONE IN­STI­TUTE)

John R. Bolton, for­mer U.S. Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, is Chair­man of Gatestone In­sti­tute, a se­nior fel­low at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, and au­thor of "Sur­ren­der Is Not an Op­tion: De­fend­ing Amer­ica at the United Na­tions and Abroad".

This ar­ti­cle first ap­peared in The Pitts­burgh Tri­bune Re­view and is reprinted here with the kind per­mis­sion of the au­thor.

The names of pas­sen­gers and crew of United Air­lines Flight 93, who lost their lives in the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks, as dis­played at the Na­tional 9/11 Memo­rial in New York. (Im­age source: Luigi Novi/Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

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