Sunday, September 11, 2016

Remembering 9/11

Polling on matters about which any opinion most of us have is ungrounded in actual expertise pisses me off. I mean, how many of us really know whether threats from infectious diseases are growing? The half that says "yes" are probably reporting they've seen "news" trumpeting the emergence of the zika virus or ebola. If I were asked, I'd be stumped. I don't know, and I know I don't know.

In the category of dumb polling, Remembering Sept. 11 has produced yet another such example. People were asked whether "the ability of terrorists to launch another major attack on the United States is greater than it was at the time of the 9/11 attacks." Now that's something about which people can have opinions, but those opinions are grounded in damned little information. If you live in Orlando or San Bernardino, you might think you had an inkling. But otherwise, any answer from most of us amounts to our personal guess based on background media noise.

What researchers found is that threat assessments have become a partisan issue: Dems and independents think we are more secure; Republicans are still more likely to be scared stupid.
Pew did exclude "don't know" responses from this graph. I failed to undercover what percentage of all responses that was. I sure hope it was a large quantity as we have almost no informed capacity to answer the question, in the era of secret wars, secret security and secret spooks.
While I don't put much stock in our ability to assess the ongoing global consequences of the 9/11 attacks and our country's responses -- all bad as far as I can make out -- I found this from the Soufan Group persuasive.

... In the aftermath of the deadliest terror attack [is this true?] in history, the U.S. and its allies laid out several goals and policy responses; chief among the goals was the prevention of another 9/11-scale attack; the denial of terrorist sanctuaries such as Afghanistan; the destruction of al-Qaeda; and countering the violent extremist ideology of bin-Ladinism. As the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, only one of these goals—the prevention of an attack nearing the scale of 9/11—has been met. While the prevention of another such attack is a significant achievement, many of the other post-9/11 concerns are considerably worse now than in 2001.

The U.S. toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan in December 2001 has been followed by nearly fifteen years of efforts to build upon that achievement. Now, the goal has been reduced to simply trying to avoid its reversal. The Taliban no longer holds the seat of central power in Afghanistan, but it does hold more territory now than at any point since September 10, 2001. The U.S. and other countries are frozen in Afghanistan. The coalition has been unable to make sufficient progress in propping up an effective Afghan military and government to allow for the departure of international forces. 

... In Iraq—the invasion of which was tied to 9/11 by the Bush Administration—the situation is equally negative, despite military progress that has been made against the so-called Islamic State. As in Afghanistan, a tactical victory against extremist groups in Iraq bought time for political and social progress that never came to fruition. Like Afghanistan, abysmal governance, economic disaster, foreign meddling, and the persistence of violent extremist messages ensured the return of pervasive terrorism in Iraq. The Islamic State, which rose in various incarnations from the early days of the U.S. invasion, has in some ways surpassed al-Qaeda. The Islamic State’s fortunes in terms of holding territory have begun to wane, but its terror capabilities and the latency of conditions that feed the group’s existence show no sign of subsiding. Similar to the campaign against al-Qaeda, the Islamic State has absorbed significant losses amongst its senior leadership over the last several years without dramatic effect.  ...

Now these authors are selling consulting about preventing terrorism to client governments (a post-9/11 growth industry), so it is not surprising their picture is dire. Still, it seem persuasive here in the land of the uninformed.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails