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The Terrorism Index

America Is Losing the War on Terror

Together with Foreign Policy magazine, we've released our second "Terrorism Index," a bipartisan survey of America's top national security experts.

This week, the House of Representatives is debating a resolution opposing President Bush’s escalation in Iraq. The resolution is just 58 words long, and has only one purpose: “Disapproving of the decision of the President announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.” But a leaked letter obtained yesterday by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s (D-MD) office reveals that some conservatives have formulated a strategy to avoid talking about the central question of the debate. In the letter, leading conservative Reps. John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) warn, if conservatives are forced to debate “the surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose.” Instead, they write, “the debate must be about the global threat of the radical Islamic movement.” The problem is they lose that debate too. Yesterday, the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine released their second “Terrorism Index,” a bipartisan survey of America’s top national security experts. The consensus: the world is growing more dangerous, and America is losing the war on terror. (Read more about the survey, including the full results, methodology, and list of participants.)

  • Experts overwhelmingly agree that the world is growing more dangerous for Americans. “America’s leaders like to say that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, represented a watershed,” the new survey notes. “After that fateful day, Americans were told, problems that had been allowed to linger — terrorist sanctuaries, dangerous dictators, and cumbersome government bureaucracies — would no longer be neglected and left for terrorists to exploit.” Eighty-one percent of Terrorism Index respondents “see a world that is growing more dangerous for the American people, while 75 percent say the United States is losing the war on terror.” Seventy percent say President Bush does not have a clear plan to protect the United States from terrorism — including nearly 40 percent of those who identified themselves as conservatives. More than 80 percent of the experts continue to expect a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 within a decade.
  • The war in Iraq is a primary cause of the increasing danger for Americans. Among the 81 percent of experts who believe the world is becoming “more dangerous” to the U.S., a large plurality identified the Iraq war as the primary cause. These results are supported by the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate released last fall, which stated that “the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives,” and that Iraq “has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists.” The result, the NIE stated, is that “activists identifying themselves as jihadists…are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion.” Sixty-six percent of respondents believe that President Bush’s escalation strategy is a bad idea. Fully 88 percent of the experts believe the war in Iraq is undermining U.S. national security.
  • The ‘urge’ is wrong for Iraq, but right for Afghanistan. Afghanistan was the first front in the post-9/11 effort to combat terrorists, and it is now being neglected. Last year was the bloodiest since the United States overthrew the Taliban in 2001. Attacks against U.S. and NATO forces have risen fourfold in the past 12 months, with Taliban fighters adopting many of the tactics used by Iraqi insurgents. (An overwhelming majority of the survey’s experts — 83 percent — say that the fundamentalist Islamist group has strengthened in the last year.) Opium production, which provides more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin, “broke all records in 2006,” and intelligence on Osama bin Laden “has gone cold.” Nearly 70 percent of experts say the U.S. should be surging forces not in Iraq but in Afghanistan. Also, the experts voiced strong concern about Pakistan. “Asked to choose the country most likely to become the next stronghold of al Qaeda, Pakistan (30 percent) was rated second, just behind Somalia (34 percent, but that was before Ethiopia’s recent military campaign there), and 91 percent of the experts said the U.S. must increase pressure on Pakistan to crackdown against Taliban and al Qaeda militants in tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border.”