Monday Morning quarterbacks. Always right, in retrospect.
Mr.Koppel's sense of overreaction deals mainly with the concern about Al Qaeda obtaining access to more dangerous unconventional weapons, a concern that led to the war in Iraq:
The goal of any organized terrorist attack is to goad a vastly more powerful enemy into an excessive response. And over the past nine years, the United States has blundered into the 9/11 snare with one overreaction after another. Bin Laden deserves to be the object of our hostility, national anguish and contempt, and he deserves to be taken seriously as a canny tactician. But much of what he has achieved we have done, and continue to do, to ourselves...
It did not have to be this way. The Bush administration's initial response was just about right. The calibrated combination of CIA operatives, special forces and air power broke the Taliban in Afghanistan and sent bin Laden and the remnants of al-Qaeda scurrying across the border into Pakistan. The American reaction was quick, powerful and effective -- a clear warning to any organization contemplating another terrorist attack against the United States. This is the point at which President George W. Bush should have declared "mission accomplished," with the caveat that unspecified U.S. agencies and branches of the military would continue the hunt for al-Qaeda's leader. The world would have understood, and most Americans would probably have been satisfied
Left unsaid, of course, is that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had an equal hatred of America. Had the intelligence at the time been correct that Saddam had a nuclear program, one that was no longer able to be monitored by the IAEA as the inspectors had been kicked out, was there anything that could stop him from assisting Al Qaeda with another attack on America, or Israel? If such an attack occurred, could George W. Bush ever be forgiven had he not tried to insure that such a terrible weapon be kept from an enemy that had already attacked terribly once?
The left and the press (BIRM) went crazy over the August 6, 2001 Daily Briefing that discussed Bin Laden, under the pretext that President Bush either should have known or did know that 9-11 would occur. Well, actually taking down the WTC is a lot more specific warning than intelligence rumblings, and if he didn't react to that and another attack. this time with an unconventional weapon, succeeded...
Fareed Zakaria more curiously thinks the entire security apparatus of the State is an overreaction.
Nine years after 9/11, can anyone doubt that Al Qaeda is simply not that deadly a threat? Since that gruesome day in 2001, once governments everywhere began serious countermeasures, Osama bin Laden’s terror network has been unable to launch a single major attack on high-value targets in the United States and Europe. While it has inspired a few much smaller attacks by local jihadis, it has been unable to execute a single one itself. Today, Al Qaeda’s best hope is to find a troubled young man who has been radicalized over the Internet, and teach him to stuff his underwear with explosives.
I do not minimize Al Qaeda’s intentions, which are barbaric. I question its capabilities.
Mr. Zakaria credits "serious countermeasures" with Al Qaeda's inability to attack for the last 9 years - and simultaneously wonders whether our security measures are necessary because they haven't attacked successfully. This is a non sequitur.
Oh, but they have attacked successfully. There is a takedown of this nonsense at Pajamas Media.
Notice the sleight of hand. Zakaria whitewashes radical Islam and its international network spawn, and reduces al-Qaeda to a few hundred cave-hoppers bowing around Waziristan. The reality is more multifaceted: “al-Qaeda” is the head of the jihadi snake, the epicenter of the global Islamist insurrection. It has offshoots in Algeria, Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines –– and perhaps forty other countries. And that’s just “al-Qaeda.” There are many terror groups.
No attacks in Europe? The Madrid attacks and London bombings immediately come to mind. In the United States, there was the Long Island convert who tried to blow up Penn Station. An al-Qaedist in Arkansas attacked a military recruitment center in Little Rock, killing an American soldier. An Islamist in Illinois tried to take down a federal building in Springfield. A jihadi from Chicago set his sights on a Danish newspaper and assisted the gunmen in the Mumbai attacks. An Afghan national targeted Manhattan landmarks. A Jordanian national tried to topple a Dallas skyscraper. There was the massacre at Fort Hood. And this was just last year.
While Mr. Zakaria is simply ignoring evidence that counters his thesis, Mr. Koppel is playing the monday morning quarterback. Talking about the game last night, he knows just what play should have been run on second and goal. Of course he does, because they ran that play on second and goal two games ago and it worked.
There were people who didn't want war in Iraq, but few if any knew with certainty that we shouldn't be concerned with Iraq's unconventional weapons. For example, Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector only began after the war began to suspect that Iraq had no weapons.
Let's not pretend our 20-20 hindsight should have been 20-20 looking forward. Let's not pretend that we can know with certainty the maximum capabilities of enemies at all times. And let's not pretend that 9-11 wasn't a life changing singular event in American history. I'm sure Mr. Koppel doesn't have that intent, but writing of "overreaction" to the event surely has that effect.
For a refresher on the events of that day, you could do worse than peruse the 9-11 News Archive.