Measuring Progress in the War on Terror

Chalmers Johnson points out a way of measuring how well the “war on terror” is going:

Security of Defense Rumsfield in October said that “we don’t have a metric”— his phrase, meaning a measure — we don’t have a metric for whether we are succeeding against terrorism. But I think we do have a metric: in the eight years between 1993 and 2001, including the attacks of 9/11, Al Qaeda carried out five major bombing incidents around the world. Since that time, in just two years, including the suicide attacks in Istanbul against the British consulate and the HSBC Bank, Al Qaeda has carried out 17 major bombings [as of February – since then, of course, there have been more]. The situation of terrorism is clearly worse since 9/11, and reveals the inappropriateness of an overly militarized response to terrorist incidents.

The surge of terrorist attacks over the last three years is a mixed blessing for this administration. On the plus side, the attacks generate fear among Americans. On the minus side, they expose the ineffectiveness of this administration’s policies for combating terror. Thus the beauty of Rumsfeld’s contention that no metric exists to measure progress in the “war on terror” – the administration gets the benefit without paying the price. As a thought experiment, imagine that the terrorist incidents from January 1993 to January 2001 occurred under Republican watch while the subsequent events occurred under Democratic watch. How much difficulty would guys like Rumsfeld have then finding a metric for competence in fighting terror?

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