According to a recent survey conducted by Foreign Policy magazine and the liberal policy group, Center for American Progress, 100 of America’s most respected foreign policy experts see a world that is growing more dangerous, a national security strategy in disarray, and a war in Iraq that is alarmingly off-track. And that’s six years after the September 11th terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, which prompted the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the larger war against terrorism.
Caroline Wadhams, a senior policy analyst for national security at the Center for American Progress, is one of the co-sponsors of the survey. Speaking with host Carol Castiel of VOA News Now’s Encounter program, Ms. Wadhams says 91 percent of the experts believe the world is getting less safe for the American people and 85 percent believe the United States is not winning the war on terrorism. She said the major factor driving that pessimism is the war in Iraq. Although the Bush administration did well in some areas, such as controlling terrorist financing, Ms. Wadhams says, it received “low grades” in areas such as public diplomacy and democracy promotion.
Dana Dillon, the author of China Challenge, is a retired major in the U.S. Army and a former senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy group based in Washington. He says that, although the United States is not winning the war terrorism, neither is it losing that war. For example, terrorism has been reduced in Indonesia, but not in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the “surge” in Iraq has temporarily reduced the amount of violence there. Caroline Wadhams counters that the purpose of the surge was to “create space for political reconciliation,” but Iraq’s leaders have not gotten any closer to meeting political goals such as sharing oil revenues and including more Sunnis in the government. Even though the military aspect of the surge is going well, according to Mr. Dillon, he agrees with General David Petraeus, the top U.S. Commander in Iraq, that military success represents “only a small fraction of what you can do in a counter-insurgency.”
Some critics of the war argue that the U.S. military presence in Iraq exacerbates violence. But Dana Dillon says the critical question to ask is: “We’re there now, so what do we do?” He notes that time is on the side of the insurgents and all they have to do is “not lose.” Regarding comparisons with the war in Vietnam, Mr. Dillon says a lot of “terrible things will also happen in Iraq” if the U.S. military pulls out, although he thinks it may be possible to “develop a better relationship with Iraq in the future.”
Caroline Wadhams says the Terrorism Index highlights Pakistan as a major problem. About half the experts surveyed believe U.S. policy toward Pakistan is having a “negative impact on U.S. national security,” and most of them think the “next al-Qaida stronghold will be in Pakistan.” They also chose Pakistan as the country most likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorists. She describes the war in Iraq as a “distraction” that has strained the military to an extent that the United States is unable to meet other threats and it has diverted attention from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border where the Taleban and al-Qaida have found safe haven. But Ms. Wadhams says the experts were “all over the map” on what to do about Pakistan.
Regarding Saudi Arabia, Dana Dillon says it is a “tainted friend.” He says one of the reasons Saudi Arabia funds madrassas, or Islamic schools, in other Muslim countries is to “displace the terrorists from attacking the Saudi government.” He says fighting terrorism will require a combination of economic development, diplomacy, and what he calls the “linkage of all agencies of government.” To combat global terrorism, Caroline Wadhams says, the “first step” is to get out of Iraq because the war has become the “perfect recruiting tool for al-Qaida and its affiliates.”
For full audio of the program Encounter click here.