04 Apr 2007

Reuters: Alright, George W. Bush Has Crippled Al Qaeda, But…

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Reuters grudgingly admires the Bush Administration’s success in preventing any successful mass terrorism attack on US since 9/11, but finds downsides of “huge security costs, strains on the U.S. military from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and resentment of the United States abroad.”

President George W. Bush’s administration has crippled al Qaeda’s ability to carry out major attacks on U.S. soil but at a political and economic cost that could leave the country more vulnerable in years to come, experts say.

Even as al Qaeda tries to rebuild operations in Pakistan, experts including current and former intelligence officials believe the group would have a hard time staging another September 11 because of U.S. success at killing or capturing senior members whose skills and experience have not been replaced.

“If the question is why al Qaeda hasn’t carried out another 9/11 attack, the answer I think is that if they could have, they would have,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Tighter U.S. airport security, greater scrutiny of people entering the United States and better coordination between the CIA, FBI and Department of Homeland Security also have made it harder for extremists to enter the country, experts said.

Home-grown extremists in the United States are believed to be isolated and lacking the will or ability to carry out large-scale operations.

“Make no mistake about it, however, our enemy is resilient and determined to strike us again,” said Charles Allen, chief intelligence officer at the Department of Homeland Security.

Some experts warn that the successes of Bush’s war on terrorism have been undercut by huge security costs, strains on the U.S. military from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and resentment of the United States abroad.

“Huge costs?”

AP just recently (3/18) noted that the war is proving relatively inexpensive.

After four years, America’s cost for the war in Iraq has reached nearly $500 billion — more than the total for the Korean War and nearly as much as 12 years in Vietnam, adjusting for inflation. The ultimate cost could reach $1 trillion or more.

A lot of money? No question.

But even though the war has turned out to be much more expensive than Bush administration officials predicted on the eve of the March 2003 invasion, it is relatively affordable — at least in historical terms.

Iraq eats up less than 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, compared with as much as 14 percent for Vietnam and 9 percent for Korea.

“I think it’s hard to argue it’s not affordable,” said Steven M. Kosiak, director of budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense think tank in Washington, D.C.

A lot of us on the Right think Bush should have expanded the US military, too, but doubtless this administration’s policy of fighting the war on the cheap has a great deal to do with its comparatively modest costs.

Foreign opinion? Well, the treasonous clerisy is what it is. Any visible and effective US policy will inevitably stimulate the left’s condemnation and outrage.

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This Reuters article does, however, contain one particularly interesting detail.

IntelCenter chief executive Ben Venzke said the chance of an al Qaeda attack on U.S. soil has grown based on the militant network’s increasing references to the American homeland in public messages.

“Our leading thinking is that we are closer now to an attempt at a major attack in the United States than at any point since 9/11,” Venzke said.

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