The global war on terror began two years ago, on September 11th, 2001, when al-Qaida terrorists attacked the United States and murdered more than three-thousand men, women, and children. Today, a U.S.-led coalition of some ninety countries –- nearly half the nations of the world -- is engaged in a campaign to eradicate terrorism.
The first battlefield was in Afghanistan. The Muslim extremist Taleban regime that gave sanctuary to the al-Qaida terrorists has been removed from power. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says, “We’re living in an age when new threats can emerge suddenly with little or no warning”:
“We can no longer stake our security on the assumption that terrorist states can be counted on to avoid actions that lead to their own destruction –- the old concept of deterrence. That theory has been overtaken by events. Certainly, such logic did not stop the Taleban regime from harboring al-Qaida as it executed attacks on the United States.”
Nor, says Mr. Rumsfeld, did deterrence stop the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein from defying seventeen United Nations Security Council resolutions, even with thousands of coalition forces massing on Iraq’s borders:
“Why would these regimes take actions that resulted in their destruction? Well, we may never know precisely what was in the minds of those leaders that caused those actions. But we do know this: regimes without checks and balances are prone to grave miscalculations.”
Today, Afghans and Iraqis are beginning to take charge of their own lives, politically and economically. They are also becoming responsible for their own security. But for the U.S., as President George W. Bush put it, “There will be no going back to the era before September 11th, 2001, to false comfort in a dangerous world. We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength, they are invited by the perception of weakness.”