Columns

Two Decades Later: 9/11 Lessons Learned and Ignored

AP Photo/Doug Mills

“If you had told Americans 20 years ago that there would not be another successful large-scale terror attack inflicted on the United States in 20 years, people would say that’s pretty impressive,” Chris Stirewalt said this week.

The AEI senior fellow is correct. But security is only one challenge; the other is public patience and basic knowledge.

Many rant about “forever wars,” yet our question is not whether the United States will leave a country, but if it can it do so responsibly.

We are the only benign superpower in history. We operate at the invitation of host governments. If we ever nation build, it’s in response to being attacked, not because we are an occupying power. We create conditions that are better than before we arrived. The only land we ask for in return for our sacrifice is the land we need to bury our dead.

Our combat role in Afghanistan ended seven years ago, and there had been no American combat deaths in 18 months until the current administration’s derelictions allowed a suicide bomber to kill 13 young service members and hundreds more amid the chaos of an hasty evacuation.

“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, they will naturally want to side with the strong horse,” Osama bin Laden once mused, implying the U.S. was the weak horse.

SEAL Team Six magnificently ended bin Laden’s reign of evil, but his followers realize the American spirit has been corroded by fatigue and petty political squabbles.

When jihad is ascendant, the world gets more dangerous and we engage. It would be great to isolate ourselves between two oceans, but history doesn’t work that way. As last month’s debacle showed, leadership from Washington matters.

Jihadist organizations have a safe haven to plot when misguided governments provide them with security to operate freely. The return of the Taliban to power will prove catastrophic. The Aug. 26 atrocity at Kabul airport could be just a foretaste of nightmares to come, given the president’s determination to proceed with the immoral surrender.

Indeed, only a couple thousand high-level troops supported the Afghans fighting for us against our enemies, making certain terrorists couldn’t reconstitute themselves and hit us again.

Taliban savages begged American troops to leave, and unfortunately President Joe Biden and the “no more endless wars” groups got their wish. When your foreign policy is built upon an emotional slogan, second guessing, and dishonest choices like complete withdrawal or a massive troop presence, you allow a new terrorist regime and millions are effectively re-enslaved.

We are back at 9/10/2001. We shouldn’t be, but because of abominable decisions, we are. And just because America decides to quit fighting doesn’t mean the terrorists go away. Rather, they’re emboldened and invigorated, following recent successes.

Recent history is a guide. While naively dismissing ISIS as the “JV Team,” then-President Barack Obama pulled American troops from Iraq a decade ago. ISIS quickly controlled more land than any terrorist cabal in history and had hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal.

Related: Mainstream Media: Muslims True Victims of 9/11 Attacks

The Taliban now can access 70,000 U.S.-made military vehicles, 600,000 small arms and light weapons, and aircraft. If we must fight again, we will confront an enemy using our own cache of advanced military equipment against us.

Capitulation leaves America more vulnerable to terrorism and directly leads to noxious events like we witnessed in Kabul. Political agendas should always be secondary to reality.

We undeniably take for granted the success we’ve had in preventing another 9/11. To claim the last 20 years are a failure is categorically false, but a fundamentally flawed narrative has locked in. Now the current president is too embarrassed to speak publicly on Saturday. That’s an unfortunate 20-year capstone.