The Terrorism Index

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

84% [of the 100 polled] said we’re losing the war, 86% said the world is becoming more dangerous for the United States.

…Foreign policy experts have never been in so much agreement about an administration’s performance abroad.

Joseph Cirincione

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision and a descent into further chaos in Israel, we’re turning to Foreign Policy‘s recent special, The Terrorism Index. They asked a simple question — “Is the United States winning the war on terror?” — and they wrote:

Since 2001, terrorists have found their targets on almost every continent, with bombings in Bali, London, Madrid, and elsewhere. Five years on, however, America has yet to experience another attack. But Americans appear less convinced that their country is winning the war on terror. In the face of persisting threats, including a growing number of terrorist attacks around the world, numerous reports show that Americans are losing faith in their government’s ability to wage the war successfully and to protect them from the terrorists’ next volley. Barely half of Americans today approve of the way in which the war on terror is being handled, and more than one third believe the United States is less safe today than it was before 9/11.

With a tip of the hat to Foreign Policy we’re creating a radio version of the index, and asking: How do you grade this almost five-year-old war on terror? (And for extra credit: should we put the term in quotes?) Who’s out there who wishes us harm? Are there more or less of them than a year ago? Are they talking to each other? Do we know where they are? Do we have any better sense as to why, exactly, they wish us harm?

And surely someone should get a bonus for the fact that we haven’t been attacked since 9/11. Right?

Joseph Cirincione

Senior Associate and Director for Non-Proliferation, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Author, Fool Me Twice, Foreign Policy, March 27, 2006

William E. Odom

Lieutenant General, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute

Director of the National Security Agency, 1985-1988

Author, America’s Inadvertent Empire

Mia Bloom

Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Cincinnati

Author, Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror

Michael Yon

Writer and photographer, Michael Yon: Online Magazine

Embedded blogger in Iraq in 2005, unembedded in Afghanistan, 2006

Former officer in Special Forces U.S. Army

Author, forthcoming Battle for Mosul

Extra Credit Reading

The Terrorism Index, Foreign Policy and The Center for American Progress, July/August 2006

Bob Herbert, The Wreckage in the China Shop, The New York Times, 6/29/06

Related Content


  • John

    Just the fact that the question gets asked …in a way answers itself. Is terrorism violence up? Yes. Is it spreading? In an age when the US calls almost anything ‘terrorism,’ I suppose it is. Is terrorism as a political option gaining credibility? Seems to be. Iraq is a professional training ground now for radical Islam just in the way Afghanistan was for the mujahdeen fighting the Russians. Are young Islamists more inclined toward radical Islam than a democratic hybrid? Look at Sudan. Look at Ethiopia. Look at the repression in Egypt, the US response to the Hamas election victory and the simmering anger in South Asia. Flip the question–are the forces that discourage terrorism having any effect? Karen Hughes…helllooo??? Changes in the Saudi regime? No one evenb talks about moderate Islam anymore. Afghanistan looks less stable. Pakistan–is it really a more democratic place? Has any US or Western rhetoric approached a more moderate tone? Where have we seen pl;aces where Western and Islamic leaders are meeting and talking? None. The concept of a ‘war on terrorism’ is a semantic problem. What about the ‘war on the things that inspire and feed terrorism?’ We got nothing.

  • Potter

    yo John!

    Regarding the above: “And surely someone should get a bonus for the fact that we haven’t been attacked since 9/11. Right?”

    You know the answer: they are planning something bigger and it takes time. This country is not and cannot be protected in the way that we are attempting especially. No, it’s quite the opposite: we are feeding the anger and thus the energized jihad to follow towards us world wide.

    Our Governor Mitt Romney’s response to today’s Supreme Court Decision? We need to elect more conservatives so that they will make appointments to the court. Incredible cluelessness, simply incredible, regarding what this country is about.

    Thus the transformation of the court that is now hanging by a thread, barely, will be completed.

  • Old Nick

    David, in the tease above, asks: “should we put the term (War on Terror) in quotes?�

    Yes, please. And despite dictionary definitions such as these, from my circa 1980 American Heritage Dictionary:

    terror

    “Anything that instills (intense, overpowering) fear;� and,

    “The ability to instill such fear;� and,

    “Violence toward private citizens, public property, and political enemies promoted by a political group to achieve or maintain supremacy�.

    Terror, even in these instances, is a tactic: employed by zealots who cannot or refuse to distinguish between innocents and their declared combatants, and applied in ‘asymmetrical’ acts of belligerence.

    “War�, meanwhile, ought to imply the possibility of eventual peace.

    Can you make peace with a tactic?

    Or only with people?

    John and Potter, in this thread’s first and second posts, answer handsomely the remainder of David’s questions.

  • Before you jump in and ask if the “war on terror” is being won, shouldn’t you ask “why is there a “war on terror” and who initiated it and framed it and for whose benefit? For those who have filled their pockets and gained in stature and significance, surely they are thrilled so far with the outcome. For the rest of us, we don’t sleep as well at night.

  • Yark

    LOOK at the Israeli Bombing 3 bridges in GAZA and TELL ME THIS: WHY COULD THEY NOT HAVE JUST PARKED A TANK AT EACH OF THOSE BRIDGES INSTEAD OF DESTROYING THEM??

    THAT is Blatant TERRORISM, and I don’t know why we put up with this NON-STOP HORSEPOOP !!!

    QUIT Funding these Terrorists !!!

  • Loay

    As person from the middle east who was involved in politics at the highest levels, all I can say about your show so far is that your guests are universally delusional. What part of US empire being over thrown do they not understand?

  • scribe5

    “Our Governor Mitt Romney’s response to today’s Supreme Court Decision? We need to elect more conservatives so that they will make appointments to the court. Incredible cluelessness, simply incredible, regarding what this country is about.”

    I happen to agree with the Supreme court decision, but the above comment doesn’t describe the country I live in.

    For most of its history the US Supreme court was incredibly conservative. It wasn’t till Justices such as Oliver Wndell Holmes and Brandeis and some others were appointed that the modern liberal supreme court was born.

    I wouldn’t want to go back to the days wehn supreme court justices were so conservative that they wouldn’t hear any labor related case because it took power away from property class. However to assume that for most of our history the Supreme court was liberal is to be clueless (to use a favorite contemporary term) about its history.

  • mannyjazz

    Retired from a private practice in clinical psychology, and having be reared in France under the Nazi Terror, I continue to hold on to an optimistic outlook grounded on both deep faith on the consistant American ability to

    mobilize a groundswell of opposition to unwise directions

    taken by its its leaders, as well as on the wisdom of the ancient Greeks, whose knowledge

    of the human condition is far

    superior to that of any authority that has discoursed on it since and who guaranteed

    punishment of hubris by the gods who were determined to keep humans in their place.

    We are beginning to see both

    America’s discontent with its

    current leadership and the

    gods’ response to the severly

    fragmented. and therefore weak

    and dangerous egos of those who have been charged with the leadership of this nation and whose puny egos can only survive, at great cost to those for whose welfare they are reponsible, by constant inflation (hubris).

  • Best hour on the war on terrorism that I’ve heard in a long time (I’d say ever, but I know better than to make those kinds of generalizations).

    One point I’ve been trying to make to friends and family for the past 5 years is that the “war on terrorism” (I agree with General Odam that it is a silly term) cannot be fought from the gut. As someone who studies Middle Eastern Politics, I’ve tried six ways from Sunday to explain that the experts, the people who KNOW and do this for a living, don’t agree with the party line coming out of the Whitehouse and the mainstream news…but proving it in a concise way has been beyond elusive.

    Kudos to FP and Open Source for finally doing it for me.

    This past show should be required listening/reading for any responsible citizen of the United States.

  • Potter

    Scribe 5: “I happen to agree with the Supreme court decision, but the above comment doesn’t describe the country I live in.”

    Unfortunately, thanks to the Republicans who do not know how to govern all the people once they elbow their way into office, we live in a divided country. We live on opposite sides of the deep divide.

    This country was ( and will continue in my opinion) to generally move in a more liberalizing direction despite the court.

    At the present time we have a leadership, and I include the ambitious Mr. Romney, who seem to be okay with the fact that we are trashing our reputation as a country that treats people, all people, especially those not guilty until so proven, with justice. Many forget, in their pride of country and flag waving, and flag protection, what it is exactly that we have (or had) to be so proud of.

    How could we round up so many on the battlefield (the battlefield as construed by the powers that be) and hold them without charges and treat them as if they were already guilty without due process, for SO LONG to the point where in their desperation they are trying to commit suicide?

    How can this adminstration and it’s enabling lawyers with their enabling interpretations and parsings hold these people in such a way while we at the same time in our unmitigated chutzpah try to sell our way of life, our form of justice to the “uncivilized” rest of the world?

    Thanks to General Odem for speaking out. Thanks also to the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights who are celebrating their victory in today’s decision.

  • garywagner

    I think the Bush administration IS “cutting and running” and NO ONE GETS IT! How many times have you heard them say recently something to the effect of “If the Iraqis want to make ‘this’ work they will have to step up to the plate and provide their own security.” etc., etc.. This is the perfect setup for step two, which is to say “Well, we tried, but the Iraqis just didn’t take the responsibility for their own destiny and we’ve done all we can. They are on their own now.” At which time we will pull out, Iraq will maybe hang together but much more likely fall apart, and Bush will blame it on THEM. And the American people will believe it! Waddaya wanna bet???

  • Potter

    How about a “strategic” retreat? Couldn’t we get behind that and a new program, a new strategy presented at the same time?

    Talk about the wisdom of crowds: try us.

  • Old Nick

    Anyone find it fascinating at the two distinct conversations that occurred during this show?

    You can easily see it above in the selected quotes (thanks for that, btw, ROS staff – it’s one of the best regular features of your web-site / radio program hybrid).

    Until Michael Yon joined in, the discussion centered on the effects US global strategy and foreign policies exert on the resentment and fundamentalism in the Muslim world that fuels extremism and anti-Western terrorism.

    Michael Yon wanted to conflate the occupation of Iraq with the topic of the previous 34 minutes of conversation. Now, don’t get me wrong: it was heartening to learn that not all the billions of American tax-dollars sent to rebuild Iraq are being pilfered by corrupt contractors and Iraqi officials.

    Hearing Yon’s words about those new Iraqi schools was nice.

    His words about the Kurds, however, were a diversion from the topic.

    Of course the Kurds want the US bases! The Kurds, utterly bereft of friends for most of their tragic history, are currying and cultivating the country that controls the world’s most powerful and mobile military! (You’d do it too!)

    But Kurds don’t don suicide jackets either.

    Twelve-year-old Kurdish boys aren’t dreaming of glorious jihad and the promise of 72 virgins.

    Kurdish opinion of the US was not germane to the show’s conversation.

    Arab opinion, however, was and is germane.

    Moreover, it doesn’t matter even if a majority of Arabs worldwide don’t thoroughly hate the US. (Does anyone know of recent poll results on that question? If so, share them here, please.) What matters is that tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Arab males resent the US, deplore the American occupation of Iraq, and watch televised news showing the civilian victims of the occupation. Read the quote at 9:35 here: http://www.radioopensource.org/after-zarqawi-the-enemy-in-iraq/

    Elsewhere in that same show (if memory serves), Juan Cole describes how US military house-to-house searches—which included the ransacking of women’s undergarment closets and drawers—violated tribal honor. Turning Iraq, clan-by-clan and town-by-town, into vengeance-seeking enemies of the USA.

    That’s what matters. Not the Kurds.

    What good will those nice new schools do us if the nascent Iraqi government fails or loses in an election to hardcore fundamentalists?

    Have we built new Iraqi schools – or future jihadi madrasas?

  • scribe5

    “Unfortunately, thanks to the Republicans who do not know how to govern all the people once they elbow their way into office, we live in a divided country. We live on opposite sides of the deep divide.”

    Well, Republicans would say that the Democrats are equally divisive.

    “This country was ( and will continue in my opinion) to generally move in a more liberalizing direction despite the court.”

    In some ways, the conservative court will help Democrats, but not because there is some law of liberal progress, there isn’t. (History unfortunatley doesn’t move in any single direction a fact that even Lenin noted when he developed the progressive-regressive method.)

    In any case, the conservative court if it overturns the right to privacy ruling will make it easdier for conservative lower middel class Catholics to vote Democratic which is their default party in terms of economic self interest.

    It’s ironic that the conservative Republicans who accused the liberals of being out of step with the values of the American peopel have now put themselves in a similiar position on most economic issues.

    Except for abortion and a few other hot button issues most lower middle class people have more in common with the Democrats than the Republicans.

    It’s up to the Democrats to make the case to them.

    Governor Dean are you listening?

  • Old Nick

    Apologies for a pre-post edit-gaffe in the 1:00 PM, June 30th above.

    The sentence ought to have read:

    Michael Yon wanted to conflate the putatively ‘under-reported successes’ of the occupation of Iraq (to name it accurately) with the topic of the previous 34 minutes of conversation.

  • babu

    Loay:

    Please expand on your 6:53 post, above.

    “your guests are universally delusional. What part of US empire being over thrown do they not understand? ”

    Very interested to hear more.

    Thanks.

  • Elliott Rufo

    i second that, please expand

  • Al-Qaeda ‘increased threat to UK’

    “The threat to the UK from al-Qaeda is likely to have increased and the Iraq war has provided a boost to extremist groups, a committee (Foreign Affairs Committee) of MPs has found.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5137628.stm

  • scribe5

    expand

    sidewalker Says:

    July 2nd, 2006 at 2:08 am

    Al-Qaeda ‘increased threat to UK’

    “The threat to the UK from al-Qaeda is likely to have increased and the Iraq war has provided a boost to extremist groups, a committee (Foreign Affairs Committee) of MPs has found.�

    This is nonsense, sidewalker.

    Muslims in the Uk are the most radical on the European continent and it has little to do with Iraq.

  • Old Nick

    scribe5 – please click here for a comment designed for you alone.

  • Scribe, you can spin it as you like, but I was just providing a link to a news story on a recent report by a British MP committee.

    Their findings show that Iraq has now become a great training ground for terrorist, where it was not one before and it has given those with a violent inclination more of a reason to hate post-colonial and imperial powers they feel threaten Islamic societies. Furthermore, the Iraq folly has diverted attention away from Afghanistan and the security situation there has worsened.

    The report (by one of the few US allies in the occupation) only confirms what has become obvious to all and sundry.

  • Let’s talk about open source.

    The open source model iis already recognized as an extremely powerful method of developing sophisticated new software such as operating systems, web servers, office suites. Increasingly people are turning to the open source paradigm for the development of other kinds of products and even for scientific research.

    Open source is characterized by worldwide collaboration by knowledgable people, each contributing their particular expertise or labor. The affiliation between these people is often loose and independent, and the leadership of open source projects is often very general, and more philosophical or thematic than direct. Open source contributors are often motivated by passion, belief, or the desire to show off their skills, rather than money or material reward.

    I’m suggesting here that terrorism is based on the open source paradigm. We are trying to defeat terrorism the way Microsoft is trying to defeat Linux. Draw your own conclusions.