Soon after 9/11, Steven Emerson addressed the World Affairs Council of Richmond. A longtime student of terrorism, he focused on the implications of the attacks. Emerson noted that a sure way to provoke another atrocity would be to declare the war won. The Bush administration also cautioned that the war against Islamists would not end with a signing ceremony on the decks of the Missouri. A war fought in the shadows will conclude in the shadows.
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 prompted analysis of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Americans who rallied to the twin invasions probably did not believe the U.S. would remain in both theaters for a decade. The failure to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq seriously undermined public support for nation-building there. Citizens did not support the war because they wanted to transform Iraq into Sweden. The situation in Afghanistan frustrates them, too.
Despite the uncertainty in the two conflicts, much has been accomplished. Al-Qaida may not be dead as an organization, but it appears to have been seriously wounded. The killing of Osama bin Laden not only served justice but also deprived the movement of its spiritual leader and perhaps its military mastermind. Other ranking jihadists have been slain as well.
The nature of the jihadist threat means that security teams can never sleep. Relaxation invites attacks. An enormity can occur at any time. Yet al-Qaida has been compromised, of that there is little doubt. Last weekend President Barack Obama said the nation is safer than it was in 2001. The much-reviled George W. Bush deserves more credit than he receives.