updated index on terrorism by foreign-policy experts

The Terrorism Index

A majority of America’s foreign-policy experts now hold a negative view of the White House’s “troop surge” strategy in Iraq, and two thirds support a redeployment of troops in the next 18 months, according to a bipartisan survey produced by Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for American Progress.

The third Foreign Policy/Center for American Progress Terrorism Index—published in the September/October issue of Foreign Policy magazine and available today at www.ForeignPolicy.com and www.AmericanProgress.org—is the first comprehensive attempt to determine the American foreign-policy establishment’s assessment of how the United States is fighting the war on terror.

Of the more than 100 foreign-policy experts (both liberals and conservatives) surveyed, 53 percent now say that the surge is having a negative impact—an increase of 22 percentage points in just the past six months. Nearly all of the experts (92 percent) believe that the war in Iraq is having a negative impact on U.S. national security.

A bipartisan majority (68 percent) now say that the United States should redeploy troops from Iraq in the next 18 months, though most oppose an immediate withdrawal. Surprisingly, more conservatives (25 percent) called for an immediate pullout than liberals or moderates.

Overall, nearly all of the experts (91 percent) say that the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans and report that the country is not winning the war on terror (84 percent). More than 80 percent predict a 9/11-scale terrorist attack on the United States in the next 10 years.

Pakistan was named as the country most likely to become the next al Qaeda stronghold, ahead of Iraq. Seventy-five percent also said that Pakistan—home to A.Q. Kahn’s now infamous nuclear black market ring—was the most likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorists in the near future.

But when the experts were asked to name the ally that least serves U.S. security interests, Pakistan placed second to Russia, with Moscow’s consistent criticism of the United States, refusal to back tougher sanctions against Iran, and the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of President Vladimir Putin likely weighing on the experts’ minds.

For complete survey results, methodology, list of participants, and experts available for comment, visit www.ForeignPolicy.com and www.AmericanProgress.org.

About the Foreign Policy/Center for American Progress Terrorism Index

The Terrorism Index is survey of more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy experts—including two former secretaries of state, a national security advisor, intelligence officers, and senior military leaders—and represents the first comprehensive attempt to determine the U.S. foreign-policy establishment’s assessment of how the United States is fighting the war on terror.

The index is based on the results of a survey designed by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy. Participants in the survey were selected by Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress for their expertise in terrorism and U.S. national security. No one currently working in an official U.S. government capacity was invited to participate.

The nonscientific survey was administered online from May 23-June 26, 2007. Respondents were asked to self-identify their ideological bias from choices across a spectrum: very conservative, conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, somewhat liberal, liberal, and very liberal. Twenty-five people identified themselves as some level of conservative, 39 identified as moderate, and 44 identified as some level of liberal. To ensure balance, the survey was weighted according to ideology to make the number of weighted liberal respondents equal to the number of conservative respondents. Moderate and conservative respondents remained unweighted.

The Surge

The outcome of the war in Iraq may now rest in large part on the success or failure of the so-called surge. Beginning in February, the White House sent an additional 28,000 U.S. troops to Baghdad in an effort to quell the violence there. Securing the capital with overwhelming force is a key component of the anti-insurgency plan developed by Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq and the military’s foremost expert on counterinsurgency tactics. It took until June for all the U.S. forces to be put in place, and the number of American troops in Iraq is now at its highest level since 2005. But is Petraeus’s plan working?

The index’s experts don’t think so. More than half say the surge is having a negative impact on U.S. national security, up 22 percentage points from just six months ago. This sentiment was shared across party lines, with 64 percent of conservative experts saying the surge is having either a negative impact or no impact at all. When the experts were asked to grade the government’s handling of the Iraq war, the news was even worse. They gave the overall effort in Iraq an average point score of just 2.9 on a 10-point scale. The government’s public diplomacy record was the only policy that scored lower.

These negative opinions may result in part from the experts’ apparent belief that, a decade from now, the world will still be reeling from the consequences of the war. Fifty-eight percent of the index’s experts say that in 10 years’ time, Sunni-Shiite tensions in the Middle East will have dramatically increased. Thirty-five percent believe that Arab dictators will have been discouraged from reforming. Just 5 percent, on the other hand, believe that al Qaeda will be weaker, whereas only 3 percent believe Iraq will be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East. If true, the surge, or any other tactical shift for that matter, was probably already too little, too late. 

Indeed, it is good news if casualties are down everywhere that U.S. troops have made their presence felt. But all that tells me is something that was obvious from the start of the war, which Donald Rumsfeld ignored: where you put in large numbers of U.S. troops you get security, and where you don’t you get insecurity.

There’s only one thing at this stage that would truly impress me, and it is this: proof that there is an Iraq, proof that there is a coalition of Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds who share our vision of a unified, multiparty, power-sharing, democratizing Iraq and who are willing to forge a social contract that will allow them to maintain such an Iraq — without U.S. troops.

Because if that is not the case, even if U.S. troops create more pockets of security via the surge, they will have no one to hand these pockets to who can maintain them without us. In other words, the only people who can prove that the surge is working are the Iraqis, and the way they prove that is by showing that violence is down in areas where there are no U.S. troops or where U.S. troops have come and gone.

….I admire their efforts, and those of their soldiers, to try to salvage something decent in Iraq, especially when you see who we are losing to — Sunni suicide jihadists and Shiite militants, who murder fellow Muslims by the dozen and whose retrograde visions offer Iraqis only a future of tears. But we could never defeat them on our own. It takes a village, and right now too many of the Iraqi villagers won’t work together.

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