Foreign Policy

10 Years After 9/11: Did al-Qaeda Succeed?

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

Al-Qaeda declared war on the United States on September 11, 2001. Now 10 years later al-Qaeda is in tatters -- its leader dead, its terrorist infrastructure virtually dismantled, despised by most nations of the world. It appears al-Qaeda has lost this war, but does that mean it was not successful?

The United States, and much of the world, changed after 9/11. Security was tightened and enhanced all over the country, from airports to office buildings to the local mall, costing untold billions of dollars.

Americans willfully gave up many of their personal rights, all in the name of weeding out potential terrorists. We accepted the Patriot Act with its many curbs on our freedoms.

We seem to shrug when we learn that our own government is eavesdropping on our private conversations. Our desire for strict, narrow warrants -- in order to gain such information -- is non-existent. If it stops another 9/11, most Americans believe, the loss of liberty is worth it.

The attacks also led the U.S. into Afghanistan and later Iraq. It gave the impression to many around the globe that the United States was at war with Islam, hurting our reputation and standing in the world.

Reporter Robert Parry wrote for on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of 9/11 in 2008:

It appears that if al-Qaeda’s motive in attacking New York and Washington on 9/11 was to bait the United States into self-destructive actions in the Middle East and thus undermine America’s position in the world, bin Laden and his associates may have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

And when one considers the current state of the economy and our massive debt, it's hard to argue any differently. Our economy is in shambles. We face the possibility of a double-dip recession, unemployment runs high and more and more individuals need government assistance. If we weren't spending billions and billions in the middle east, perhaps we could have invested more in infrastructure and our own educational system.

However, Osama bin Laden is dead, his body dumped at sea after Navy SEALS shot him in the eye during a raid in May.

Al-Qaeda has been unable to pull off any terrorist attacks in the United States during the past decade. Plot after plot has been foiled by federal and local authorities, in many cases using those same laws that cost us some of our rights to catch terrorists bent on killing us.

Some of those billions of dollars went towards improving intelligence, which has also helped stop terrorist attacks. We may never get that money back, but it appears it was money well spent.

Al-Qaeda is clearly on the run, relegated to caves and crude compounds in the mountains of Afghanistan. Can this truly be called "successful?"