As intelligence agencies rush to connect more dots on a page so crowded with dots that they already almost touch, Americans need to focus on the real problem, our foreign policies. We have made ourselves the enemy of over a billion people, nearly a quarter of the world’s population. Aside from President Obama’s Bush-sounding, bombastic speech, there is simply an overload of information: too many names, too many threats from citizens of too many nations. Indeed, overloading our defense systems may be part of al-Qaeda’s strategy.
As many Muslims see it, Washington kills innocent civilians all the time. American hypocrisy enrages them almost more than our bombs, no matter how much we claim that we only aim at bad guys. Our problem is the same as one faced by mighty Hercules in ancient mythology – for every enemy we kill, 10 more spring up in their places, each hating America even more. Hercules’ solution was to stop his killing and leave the country.
Almost all Muslims have been outraged by our foreign policy in Iraq and Gaza. Several years ago, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote of a Palestinian woman and her children screaming for help into a cell phone as Israeli soldiers were breaking down her door to expel her from her home. Friedman reported that the recording was then played over and over again by radio stations in the whole Muslim world. Such recordings and now videos from the attack on Gaza must also be on the Internet and are surely used by al-Qaeda for its training and motivation courses.
Conservatives demanding ethnic profiling of potential terrorists used only to be concerned with Palestinians and other Arabs. Now there are Iraqis, Pakistanis, Somalis, Nigerians, Afghans, Yemenis, Saudis, and European converts, all potential suicide bombers. Meanwhile America cuts itself off from more and more Muslims both in terms of their traveling or studying in America and in terms of our losing out on business in the oil-rich nations. In Iraq, little business goes to America, and all the new oil contracts have gone to non-American companies; in Saudi Arabia, most new oil contracts now go to non-American companies; and in Iran, Washington prohibits U.S. business from most trade. In Yemen and Somalia, no American will feel safe for years to come.
Almost six years ago I wrote “36 Ways America Is Losing the War on Terror.” It is still relevant. The article has been on page one of a Google search for "America losing war" since then. A later article, “How bin Laden Bankrupted America," explained how he did it. Interestingly, also high on a Google search for "bin Laden bankrupted America" is a report from CNN in 2004 quoting bin Laden that his plan all along was to bankrupt America. He is succeeding.
I am reminded of an analysis by George Kennan when he was a young diplomat in Berlin in early 1941. He wrote how Germany then seemed so powerful, dominating all of Europe with the best army and technology, yet he warned that military power alone would not gain Germany its objectives. He meant it as a lesson for America. Historians of the future will write in awe of the incredible waste of spending under Bush and Obama together. More police and military, more air marshals, more restrictions on our freedoms, more taxes, more delays at airports, more bombing of foreign nations – none of these will bring us safety or victory.