John Hinderaker compiles the record of coordinated terror attacks against the United States and Americans abroad, conclusing that we are indeed safer now than we used to be.
On the stump, Barack Obama usually concludes his comments on Iraq by saying, “and it hasn’t made us safer.” It is an article of faith on the left that nothing the Bush administration has done has enhanced our security, and, on the contrary, its various alleged blunders have only contributed to the number of jihadists who want to attack us.
Empirically, however, it seems beyond dispute that something has made us safer since 2001. Over the course of the Bush administration, successful attacks on the United States and its interests overseas have dwindled to virtually nothing….
There are a number of possible reasons why our government’s actions after September 11 may have made us safer. Overthrowing the Taliban and depriving al Qaeda of its training grounds in Afghanistan certainly impaired the effectiveness of that organization. Waterboarding three top al Qaeda leaders for a minute or so apiece may have given us the vital information we needed to head off plots in progress and to kill or apprehend three-quarters of al Qaeda’s leadership. The National Security Agency’s eavesdropping on international terrorist communications may have allowed us to identify and penetrate cells here in the U.S., as well as to identify and kill terrorists overseas. We may have penetrated al Qaeda’s communications network, perhaps through the mysterious Naeem Noor Khan, whose laptop may have been the 21st century equivalent of the Enigma machine. Al Qaeda’s announcement that Iraq is the central front in its war against the West, and its call for jihadis to find their way to Iraq to fight American troops, may have distracted the terrorists from attacks on the United States. The fact that al Qaeda loyalists gathered in Iraq, where they have been decimated by American and Iraqi troops, may have crippled their ability to launch attacks elsewhere. The conduct of al Qaeda in Iraq, which revealed that it is an organization of sociopaths, not freedom fighters, may have destroyed its credibility in the Islamic world. The Bush administration’s skillful diplomacy may have convinced other nations to take stronger actions against their own domestic terrorists. (This certainly happened in Saudi Arabia, for whatever reason.) Our intelligence agencies may have gotten their act together after decades of failure. The Department of Homeland Security, despite its moments of obvious lameness, may not be as useless as many of us had thought.
No doubt there are officials inside the Bush administration who could better allocate credit among these, and probably other, explanations of our success in preventing terrorist attacks. But based on the clear historical record, it is obvious that the Bush administration has done something since 2001 that has dramatically improved our security against such attacks. To fail to recognize this, and to rail against the Bush administration’s security policies as failures or worse, is to sow the seeds of greatly increased susceptibility to terrorist attack in the next administration.