Chris Reilly is wrong in his July 19 claim that the world is safer since we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Objective measurements show this to be untrue. According to the Rand Corporation's Terrorism Knowledge Base, the number of terror incidents worldwide in 2001 was 1,733. In 2002, that number rose to 2,650. In 2003, the year we invaded Iraq, the number of incidents was 1,895 - still above the 2001 level. In 2004, the number of terror incidents skyrocketed to 2,578. As of this writing, there have been 1,878 terror incidents worldwide in 2005. That is more than took place in all of 2001, and we still have five months to go this year.
Another sign that the danger from al-Qaeda is undiminished is that we have failed to disrupt their time table. Since the mid-1990s, they have done major attacks every 18 to 24 months. Sixteen months have passed between the Madrid bombings and the London bombings. Al-Qaeda is apparently keeping their own schedule.
This lack of threat reduction has occurred despite the waste of tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in the sands of Iraq. A country that both the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence determined had no role in 9/11, nor had operational links with al-Qaeda or other groups of global reach. Al-Qaeda is using Iraq as a recruitment and training center because our invasion allowed them to do so.
I write this as someone who believes that our Afghanistan campaign was a justifiable use of force and wish we had finished the job there instead of letting so much of al-Qaeda flee to Pakistan and other countries.
What the future holds is unclear. Perhaps the president's mammoth gamble of lives and treasure will make the world safer one day. What is clear from what we can measure in terms of terror attacks is that the world is less safe today than it was on September 12, 2001. As President Reagan said, facts are stubborn things.