Yesterday was the seventeenth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s bloody attacks on New York and Washington. Clifford May uses the occasion to reflect on the state of America’s long war on jihadism:
A grand illusion to which Americans and Europeans are susceptible [is that] war is an aberration, and peace is the normal state of the world, a condition to which all peoples aspire. Even a cursory reading of history shows this to be wishful thinking. . . . The grim reality is that after seventeen years of conflict, we have not decisively defeated al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Far from it: al-Qaeda franchises proliferate and, according to Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, “the Taliban’s men contest or control approximately 60 percent of [Afghanistan]—as much ground as at any point since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.” . . .
[Meanwhile], the Islamic Republic of Iran’s long-term goal remains, as it has for nearly 40 years, “Death to America!” Its supreme leader now projects power into Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza, and Iraq. He aids those fighting Americans in Afghanistan. He sponsors terrorists with impunity. . . .
[O]ur enemies do not appear exhausted, discouraged, or underfunded. Do we know them yet, or are we still trying to imagine what “drives” people to “violent extremism?” Do we have the stomach to endure the long war—which, I believe, should be recognized as a multi-front struggle against jihadism? Do we have the patience to develop a winning strategy even if that requires—as it clearly does—much trial and too many errors?
In the days after the 2001 attacks, it was said that a sleeping giant had been awakened. Today, there are many on both the left and the right telling the giant to go back to bed and pull the covers over his eyes. If that’s where our enemies find us, they’ll know what to do.