9/11: Turning the page on 15 years of failed lessons

· September 10, 2016  
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Joshua Haviv | Shutterstock

Fifteen years ago today, 19 jihadists who should have never been allowed into this country orchestrated the most devastating attack on our soil in our nation’s history, killing 2,996 and injuring approximately 6,000.  As we reflect upon the events of the day itself — the loss of life in the terror attacks, the heroism of Flight 93, and the bravery of our first responders — it’s also important we confront the brutal reality of our failed response to 9/11. After all, it caused over 7,000 U.S. military deaths and 50,000 wounded in action — all in pursuit of nation-building missions that backfired and empowered our enemies more than ever. 

Our troops have fought bravely in these aimless overseas endeavors, but our political leaders here at home accelerated immigration from the Middle East, the very source of the problem that led to 9/11 itself. While Obama’s failed policies are definitely to blame for this increase in immigration, the lack of moral clarity from Republicans on both immigration and foreign policy are also responsible for us having nothing to show after 15 years at war.  We are saddled with thousands of casualties, trillions of dollars wasted, record high immigration from the Middle East, the Taliban controlling more territory than ever before in Afghanistan, and the vacuum in Iraq which is emboldening Iranian hegemony and further fueling the regional Sunni insurgency – and nothing to show for it.

What is the purpose of fighting even a prudent war with a definitive and cost-effective outcome that serves our national interests if we are self-immolating back home?

Backward Immigration Policies

After 9/11, our nation focused a tremendous amount of time and energy to foreign policy. Our first priority, however, should have been homeland security. In particular, we should have taken immediate steps to stop the three decades of mass importation of Third World security threats. It made perfect sense at the time to cool down immigration in general and from the Middle East, and doing so would have been a relatively low-cost way to stop suicidal national policies.  

Instead of improving our immigrating system to reflect our security situation, however, we went backwards. Our immigration from the Middle East doubled and we have since imported nearly two million more immigrants from troubled Middle Eastern countries. If even a small percentage harbor fundamentalist views that is a cataclysmic number, but, unfortunately, the number of strict Sharia-adherents within our borders is not a small one

Europe fell into an irremediable security nightmare because they pioneered the same exact  policies for a longer period of time. Here in the United States, there has been no major movement among our political leaders to learn from the mistakes of the Europeans or even slow down the pace of Middle Eastern immigration.

Somehow our government thought it was a great idea to accept an unlimited number of Saudi students under the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. Since its inception in 2004, three years after 9/11, the numbers have increased dramatically. We now take in over 70,000 from Saudi Arabia and over 150,000 from the Middle East every year (1.2 million worldwide).   

What has changed since 9/11?

Arabic is now the fastest growing language on U.S. campuses as a result of the high number of Middle Eastern students we have accepted. In fact, it is the fastest growing language in the country in general because of the massive number of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East. In 2014, ABC news discovered that 58,000 foreign nationals had overstayed their student visas, of which 6,000 represented a “heightened concern.”  Yet, despite recommendations from the 9/11 Commission, our government has failed to establish a visa tracking system to this day.  In FY 2015 alone, almost 500,000 individuals overstayed their tourist visas

Moreover, our Sothern border remains wide open, as the border fence has never been built. Meanwhile, 30,000 Middle Easterners have been known to cross over the border just in the first 10 months of this fiscal year and there is now a permanent smuggling operation to bring in the Middle East migrants the same way they are coming to Europe.  In addition, Obama is increasing the number of refugees by the month and no more than a handful of conservative members are even contemplating using their budgetary power to stop it.   

If you couple the massive growth in Islamic immigration with the continued empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood subversion agenda in communities across America, we are now confronted with an existential homegrown terror threat that dwarfs our worst concerns immediately following 9/11 of more infiltration-style central command attacks plotted from outside our borders.  

Not only has our government failed to identify and neutralize the enemy, it has augmented their numbers within our borders and have empowered some of the most radical elements to influence not just the Muslim communities in America but our Homeland Security policy itself.  Hamas-linked organizations are on our shores, serve as the ambassadors to Muslim communities, have a monopoly on their education and worship, and obtain security clearances within the highest levels of our government. An Orwellian post-9/11 response to Homeland Security indeed!

This is not a question of interventionism vs. isolationism, it’s a question of the right type of intervention.

A Foreign Policy that has Backfired

To begin with, it’s an exercise in dyslexic priorities to ask our brave soldiers to fight wars half way around the world after we’ve brought in endless security risks through our front door and empowered the Muslim Brotherhood to launch civilization jihad in the homeland. After all, what is the purpose of fighting even a prudent war with a definitive and cost-effective outcome that serves our national interests if we are self-immolating back home?

Sadly, our military interventions have been anything but prudent, cost effective, or in the national interests. We have focused on nation-building in non-existent nation-states full of warring factions that are all enemies to our belief system. The only way the Iraq war could have worked is if we made it a one-two punch taking out the Iranian Mullahs (a non-Arab country actually receptive to regime change). Instead, Iran’s inevitable hegemony over Iraqi Shias led to the incorrigible Sunni insurgency.

Obviously, Obama dealt with it in the most irresponsible way imaginable, but the war was already lost long ago. Over 4,400 troops were killed and 31,000 wounded — with countless suffering from PTSD — all resulting in the strengthening of Iran, the creation of ISIS (or whatever perpetually replaces it in the Sunni parts of Iraq), and coming full circle — the admission of hundreds of thousands of Sunni and Shia Iraqi refugees into our country since 2007.

In Afghanistan, after 2384 fatalities, over 20,000 wounded in action, and $685 billion in direct costs (not including depletion of base defense and increased VA costs), what do we have to show for it?  The Taliban control more territory than they did before 2001, and U.S. soldiers, primarily special operators, are stuck fighting an aimless war with egregious rules of engagement in order to prop up an unreliable government built on a Sharia constitution!  To be fair, 74 percent of the casualties were incurred during Obama’s presidency seven years after the initial invasion.  But the time has come for conservatives to either define a prudent and achievable mission or leave.       

This is not a question of interventionism vs. isolationism, it’s a question of the right type of intervention. The problem is not just that these interventions were worthless; they were harmful.  Our policies have helped our Islamic enemies or specific groups of Islamists in their respective civil wars. Just think of how our obsession with refereeing Islamic civil wars has resulted in the DOD and the CIA backing competing factions in Syria that now fight each other. Neither of them further our interests. Our policy of ‘intervene in Islamic civil wars first, ask questions later’ has resulted in cases where ISIS commanders we are now fighting were trained by our own government inside the U.S.

Conservatives Must Chart a New Path 

This critique is different from some who fundamentally don’t understand the clash of civilizations and believe that as long as we pull out our military bases in the Middle East, the Islamists will leave us alone. At the same time, conservatives must eschew the mentality of the Republican foreign policy establishment that believe bad regimes and terror groups are divorced from the broader Islamic supremacism supported by those who practice strict Sharia in the Middle East. By ignoring the foundational threat of unreformed Islam, they have charted us on this calamitous course of fighting “extremists” on behalf of “moderates,” which has backfired.

It goes without saying that the security/military/and immigration decisions of this administration are completely backwards and serve the interests of our enemies — some of the same forces and precisely the same ideology that attacked us on 9/11. But it is not enough to merely reject Obama. After 15 years of failure, it’s time conservatives start fresh and chart a new course and propose homeland security and foreign policies that can stand on their own veracity, not just the lesser of two evils when juxtaposed to the Left.

A fresh path begins with taking the constitutional and prudent steps to finally secure our homeland and root out the enemy within so that we don’t become like Europe in five years.   

When it comes to foreign policy, we must stop taking the failed status quo in the Middle East as a given. The next president must audit every military engagement and asses the risk vs. return matrix. Doing so will help determine whether there is any favorable outcome that comports with our strategic interests. Determining those strategic interests begins with understanding the nature of our enemy and their threat doctrine. Once we understand that this is a clash of civilization being fueled by Sharia-Islam and that only reform-minded Muslim leaders, not phantom “moderates,” can serve as critical partners in this war, the path to successful homeland security, immigration, and foreign policies will become self-evident. Once a threat is identified, a strategy has been formulated, and favorable outcome becomes clear, we must reverse the post-WWII failures by formally declaring war and pursuing that end unflinchingly — or we should not engage at all.   

Thus, in addition to reflecting on the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks, we must reflect on the tragedy of the willful blindness of our political leaders that led to the attacks, and worse, the blindness that prevents them from doing what it takes to properly identify the enemy, and place the security interests of America first to this very day.


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.