by: Joe Lazauskas
The 2012 election is the first in which many new voters will only have hazy memories of September 11, 2001 and its aftermath; after all, 18-year-old voters were only 7 years old when the World Trade Center fell. But while 9/11 may not burn bright in the minds of Young Millennials, its impact on US National Security has never been stronger.
September 11th sparked two wars under the Bush administration: first, in Afghanistan, as the US government pursued the Al-Qaeda terrorist group and Taliban regime that had orchestrated the attacks, and then, in Iraq, as the US military pursued weapons of mass destruction that did not actually exist.
At home, the PATRIOT Act allowed sweeping new freedoms for law enforcement officials pursuing anti-terrorism intelligence, including deporting and detaining immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts and widespread roving wiretaps. This led to the opening of Guantanamo Bay, a military prison in Cuba where terrorist suspects have been held indefinitely without trial. Though President Obama promised to close the prison during his 2008 campaign, efforts to do so have failed amidst legal roadblocks.
In August 2004, the United States released the findings of the 9/11 Commission. The independent, bipartisan group was tasked with figuring out why the 9/11 attacks happened and what steps needed to be taken to prevent future attacks. The Commission pointed to numerous failures by the CIA, FBI and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Most notably, the Commission strongly urged dedicated efforts to rebuild Afghani society to prevent the region from becoming a breeding ground for radical groups seeking revenge on the United States.
That fear of radical terrorism groups like Al-Qaeda continues to dominate US Defense policy. President Obama extended the main provisions of the Patriot Act, and last December, the US Senate voted 86-13 to allow the federal government the right to send US citizens suspected of terrorism to Guantanamo Bay and deny them their right to due process of law.
+ Wait, US citizens can be sent to Guantanamo Bay without a trial?
Yes, indeed. Aggressive counter-terrorism moves seem to be the only thing Congress can agree on. The last time the Senate agreed upon something 86-13, it was a decision to break for lunch. They ordered Thai.
+ But we got Osama Bin Laden! Isn’t everything better now?
President Obama’s gusty call to gun down Osama Bin Laden at his Pakistani compound certainly delivered a huge blow to Al Qaeda, but that but that wasn’t enough to alleviate concerns facing the US in the Middle East—a large, complex region unnerved by the two US invasions in the last decade.
Terrorist groups aren’t just a threat in Afghanistan and Iraq: they’re also in Iran, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, amongst other countries. Though some experts feel that the Obama administration has been very effective at targeting terrorist leaders, many analysts believe that continued aggressive military action may only breed resentment towards the US and, as a result, more terrorists and potentially more nations willing to align with a US enemy like Iran.
+ But don’t we have lots of allies?
In Europe, totally. In the Middle East, not so much. The US has had three primary allies in the Middle East over the last 30 years: Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Soon, we may only have two.
The Egyptian overthrow of Hoszni Mubarak last spring was a great victory for democracy, but probably not for US-Egyptian relations. Newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party executed a purge of senior army officials deeply loyal to the US last week, and elevated a younger generation of military leaders in their place.
That includes the military’s new Chief of Staff, Sedky Sobhy, who has been highly critical of US defense policy in the Middle East. The New York Times reports that, in a thesis for the US’s Army War College, Sobhy wrote that:
Opposition to America’s military presence in the Gulf, its interventions in the Muslim countries and its “one-sided” support for Israel had inspired an endless recruiting pool of Islamist radicals and “immersed” Washington in an “asymmetrical” global war against terrorists with no foreseeable goal or endpoint.
He went on to call for complete US withdrawal from the region and a stark reversal of US policy, which many suspect reflects the Muslim Brotherhood’s stance as well. Time will tell.
+ We still have Saudi Arabia and Israel’s support though, right?
We do, but that support comes with complications. It’s looking more and more like Israel is deadset on bombing Iranian nuclear facilities soon, where they may or may not be close to producing a weapon of mass destruction. An Israeli strike would almost certainly draw the United States into the conflict.
+ So what course of action do President Obama and Governor Romney want to pursue if they win the election?
Whew. Since I’m more exhausted than K-Stew’s publicist right now, let’s throw this one over to Politico’s excellent breakdown of the two candidates’ foreign policy and national defense plans.
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