Are we safer?
Here is why:
1. In a rare moment of agreement, President Bush and Senator Kerry both stated that the greatest threat to America was the proliferation of WMD by terrorist states – particularly the proliferation of nukes. I agree,Prior to the war, there were four countries listed on the state department’s list of state sponsored terrorism who were pursuing the production of nuclear weapons. These were Iran, North Korea, Libya, and Iraq. Today there are only two countries, Iran and North Korea. Of these original four, Iraq was the most dangerous because it was ruled by a single individual who used Iraq’s vast oil wealth to pursue these programs. No matter what happens in Iraq, even if the country breaks out into full scale civil war and the democracy project fails, Iraq will never again be able to pool its vast oil wealth in pursuit of nukes or other WMD. Iraq’s WMD days are over (people seem to forget this when they talk about Iraq. Similarly, Libya also disarmed mostly because they did not want to be the next Iraq.We still have work to do.
Iran and North Korea are still there. But two is better than four.
2. The terrorist army is destroyed. Osama’s stated goal was to topple Arab and other governments in the “Muslim world.” He was creating a terrorist army in Afghanistan to accomplish this goal. However, this army is largely destroyed and its leaders killed or captured. The army has been liquidated in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Without serious muscle to influence Arab governments, Al Qaeda will never be a strategic threat. In this sense they are being returned (as John Kerry stated) to the nuisance factor.
3. Even though Al Qaeda may be eliminated as a strategic threat, we still have to contend with the popularity of the ideology and all of the copy cats around the world. This can be done through intelligence and police action. We have been aggressively pursing the terrorists. Any military historian knows that those who concentrate on defense generally lose, which is why you need to go on offense if you want to win. We have done this in aggressively pursing the terrorists in the law enforcement area. This includes many unpopular programs such as warrantless wiretapping and the aggressive questioning of terror suspects. Law enforcement is also following potential terror suspects in America, monitoring mosques, and following up on radical behavior. In past conflicts, the government has been criticized and slapped down by the courts for similar behavior such as the limitation on rights during the civil war, the sedition acts during World War I, the internment of Japanese, German, and Italian Americans in World War II, and even the red scare in the government during the 1950s. However, we won those past wars and our civil liberties were restored. It is better to win and regain your principles than to perish with principles in hand.
Conclusion: We are safer.