Nine Years Since 9/11
And still so much to learn.


Clifford D. May

In his address on Iraq last week, President Obama added that “open-ended war” does not “serve” American interests. That’s true but irrelevant, since wars are not theatrical productions — you can’t just bring down the curtain at a time certain. Wars generally continue until one side wins and the other loses.

The U.S. and the West are not prepared to escalate the conflict in order to defeat our enemies any time soon. Nor are we likely to accept defeat in the near term. So what we’re left with is indeed an “open-ended war,” a long war, a low-intensity war, on a variety of fronts.

Afghanistan is one of them. It is instructive to note that the Sunday Times of London reported last weekend that Iranians are paying members of the Taliban to kill American soldiers there. Think about that: Iran’s rulers are collaborating with the Taliban, an affiliate of al-Qaeda — evidence, hardly the first, that while Shia jihadis and Sunni jihadis may be rivals, they can and do find common causes: slaughtering Americans, for one.

Political leaders and the intelligence community ought to be seriously contemplating what this means — and what it will mean if Tehran succeeds in acquiring nuclear weapons. Based on past performance, we cannot be confident they are engaging in such contemplation.

According to the Times, Iran is financing the Taliban using aid money from the West that is being paid to Iranian firms involved in the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan. In other words: NATO countries are funding the slaughter of NATO troops. Will President Obama hold Iran responsible and take steps to end this practice? Will he even speak clearly of Iranian culpability?

More likely, he will repeat that our goal must be to avoid “open-ended war.” How encouraging that will be to the jihadis and Islamists in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, Gaza, and other fronts. It will reassure them that, nine years after the 9/11 attacks, they are thinking strategically — while their infidel enemies are not.

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.