Report Card on the War on Terror

moderator: Gary Hart
author: Daniel Benjamin, U.S. State Department
author: Steven Simon, Council on Foreign Relations
published: Jan. 28, 2013,   recorded: October 2005,   views: 8
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Gary Hart wields his national security expertise to query these two authors in detail on their latest collaboration. Benjamin summarizes the book this way: “By pursuing the policies we have, we are hastening the next attack. I’m not talking about a run of the mill attack, the kind society could learn to live with, but a really big attack, which will endanger our institutions, confidence and society.” The authors believe the U.S. intervention in Iraq has spawned a new Iraqi insurgency and energized the greater Islamic jihad. Hart asks if it’s solely U.S. policy that’s creating an increasingly virulent movement, or whether homegrown “Islamic brutality” and belief must share some blame. Simon responds that our actions in the Middle East and elsewhere make it very difficult for Islamic moderates to counter “the observed experience of Muslims in many parts of the world.” A lot of energy that went into Arab nationalism, says Benjamin, now enters a violent movement “to embrace justice, freedom and fairness.” He continues, “The sense of imposition by the West will remain there, and grievances won’t go away even if we pull up stakes tomorrow.”

The authors warn that Islamic fighters in Iraq are getting valuable experience in military operations in urban terrain, which they will likely apply to Western cities. They call for a new policy in the Middle East and South Asia, involving functioning alliances to counter terrorism, as well as creating incentives for hostile leaders to change their behaviors. Benjamin says, “Don’t conduct foreign policy adventures,” because these inevitably give “the bin Laden argument a powerful leg up. We’ve got to stop doing that…. We need people to go back to believing in America as the upholder of ideals it was not too long ago.”

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