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9/11 Commission chairmen: We aren't beating the terrorists yet

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USA Today

by Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, Opinion contributors

Despite our successes, each time we have made apparent progress our adversary only moves, morphs and grows. We aren't close to winning.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 16 years ago, herculean exertions by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have prevented another mass casualty attack on our soil, and U.S. military and intelligence operations have killed Osama bin Laden and thousands of hardened terrorists overseas.

Despite these successes, each time we have made apparent progress our adversary only moves, morphs and grows, and we cannot claim to be close to winning against this persistent threat.

The answer for long-term defeat lies in understanding and winning the struggle of ideas. Defeating an ideology is hard, but not impossible: By the end of the Cold War, communism was utterly discredited as a governing philosophy. The U.S. and its allies must wage a similar battle against the ideas that animate Islamist terrorists, a battle that will be won only when the ideology that spurs many to violence today falls only on deaf ears tomorrow.

Last year, more than 25,000 people died in roughly 11,000 terrorist attacks in 104 countries. Compare that with the 7,000 deaths in fewer than 2,000 attacks in 2001 (with nearly half those deaths occurring on a single day) and it is clear that the threat from terrorism has grown despite the U.S. government’s many post-9/11 efforts.

That relatively few of the more recent terrorism-related deaths have occurred in the USA should be of little consolation. Global terrorism has created a humanitarian and migration crisis — the political, economic and social cost of which America and its partners will be shouldering for years to come.

Now, with the United States and its allies on the brink of militarily vanquishing yet another terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, we must avoid the temptation of confusing the defeat of one brutal terrorist organization with victory against terrorism.

Read more: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/09/08/9-11-defeat-terrorists-ideas-thomas-kean-lee-hamilton-column/637103001/