Charles V. Pena / UPI Outside View Commentator – 2007-10-21 22:17:23
WASHINGTON (October 3, 2007) — More than six years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, America is a country with more physical security to defend against terrorism. Much of that has been focused on preventing hijackings so that airplanes cannot be used as missiles as they were on Sept. 11.
Most recently, Department of Homeland Security officials announced that remote-control toys may be subject to additional security screening because the government “is aware that remote control toys can be used to initiate devices used in terrorist attacks.”
Buildings have also been made more secure by erecting barricades, prohibiting parking and other access, deploying armed personnel, and instituting identity and vehicle checks. New York City has a much more visible police presence.
However, though such measures certainly make successful terrorist attacks harder, they are no guarantee. Baghdad, for instance, has more security than the average U.S. city, but that has not stopped the onslaught of terror attacks there. Increased security does not equal being safer from terrorism.
In fact, it is impossible to know exactly why the United States has not — thankfully — suffered another terrorist attack.
Part of the reason is undoubtedly geography. Given that the terrorist threat to the United States emanates from outside its borders, the country is fortunately bordered by friendly neighbors to the north and south and by vast oceans to the east and west — making it more difficult for terrorists to transit from abroad.
The United States is also fortunate that American Muslims seem not to be as susceptible to radicalization and the violence espoused by radical Islam — lessening the potential threat from any enemy within.
Another reason is that as a result of military operations in Afghanistan, al-Qaida’s sanctuary has been displaced and it is likely not as operationally capable as it was on Sept. 11. But it could also be that al-Qaida has chosen not to attack the U.S. homeland again — especially when America has provided a more convenient target in Iraq for jihadists to hone their tradecraft.
It is also important to understand that al-Qaida’s (and by extension, radical Islam’s) real target is the Muslim world.
War with America is not a goal in and of itself, but a means to an end: toppling regimes and furthering the cause of Islamic revolution throughout the Middle East and Asia. The United States became a target because of its support for those governments — many of which are repressive, corrupt and illegitimate — considered apostate by Osama bin Laden’s standards.
Ultimately, if the United States wants to be safer, then its policymakers need to address the reasons why people choose to become terrorists and want to kill innocent Americans.
This requires understanding that the growing tide of anti-American Muslim hatred — which is the basis for terror groups to draw Muslims to their ranks — is fueled more by what we do, i.e. US policies, than who we are.
In other words — as the Sept. 11 Commission concluded and numerous polls conducted throughout the Islamic world show — they do not hate the United States for its freedoms, way of life, culture, accomplishments or values.
But Muslims throughout the world believe they are victims of U.S. foreign policy. For example, they hear the rhetoric of the United States seeking to establish democracy in Iraq but see continued unqualified US support for an autocratic and oppressive theocracy in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
How Muslims view the war in Iraq cannot be ignored either — the United States attacked a Muslim country without military provocation, and the Bush administration’s claims of weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaida links were false.
In addition, the bipartisan saber rattling against Iran lends credence to the claim that the United States is engaged in a wider war against Islam rather than targeting the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11.
With more than 1 billion Muslims in the world, the underlying reasons why so many of them have a growing hatred of the United States cannot continue to be ignored. If it is — no matter how much security we erect — the United States will never be safe.
Charles V. Pena is an adviser to the Straus Military Reform Project and author of Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism (Potomac Books).)
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