What if after the attacks on America by the terror group al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001, we had not gone into Iraq or Afghanistan? How different would things here in the United States be if George W. Bush had not launched those wars? What if the US had not responded to the attacks? How different would things be if we had foregone Iraq and went directly into Afghanistan? Or if Pakistan had been our target? (Osama bin Laden was hiding and killed in Pakistan. Al-Qaida's new second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a Libyan nation, was killed in a missile-drone attack this week in Pakistan's tribal region of Waziristan. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Pakistan.)
Without question, the first response would be the huge loss of American lives since 2001 in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Every life that was given to protect the US is precious. Every military person who lived but suffered physical and emotional loss is precious. Freedom is not free and the first and most valuable thing to any country is its citizens. No value can be put on the members of our brave military. America has forever been changed by the loss of each military man and woman just as America was changed by the almost 3,000 lives taken on September 11, 2001. But who can know how many American lives might have been lost through terror attacks over the past ten years had we not taken the fight to the enemy?
The second response from many will be concerning the cost of the wars. If there had been no response at all to the terror attacks on US soil, it would have made no difference to the average citizen economically. I'm not talking about the federal long-term debt and deficit or the economic downfall in 20008-2009, I'm talking about individual finances. We must also consider the financial cost of potential additional attacks on the US by an enemy that would have been emboldened by no American response, or a timid response.
One can always argue the pros and cons of how different things would be for the average citizen in Iraq or Afghanistan, had there been no intervention by the United States and coalition countries. During the years since our military captured Baghdad, brought down the statue of Saddam Hussein and eventually captured him, the people of Iraq have experienced some very bad times and some very good times. Things are turning around and the average Iraqi can see a glimmer of light for their future. That would not have been possible without the US. But that's Iraq, not the US.
Afghanistan is different than Iraq. Personally, I don't have much hope for any kind of peaceful future in Afghanistan. However, the US has made some friends on the ground, our military has built schools, hospitals, and tried to make a deal with the Taliban. None of which will last. I fear that when our military is gone from Afghanistan, things will revert back to the days of Sharia Law, where girls and women are nothing more than chattel, abused, not allowed an education, and al-Qaeda will once again flourish. But that's Afghanistan, not the US.
We can argue whether al-Qaeda was in Iraq or not prior to September 11, 2001 and we can also argue whether Afghanistan was the 'good war', or not.
We can ask questions about what the United States would look like politically had Bush not made the decisions he made. Would he have won a second term? Would Barack Hussein Obama have been elected in 2008? Would we have been attacked again and if so how would the new president respond, if at all?
Since I do not have a crystal ball, I cannot answer many of the above questions. I can make some educated guesses...
If we had not gone into Iraq;
If we had concentrated on the lawless areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan;
If we had not launched a full-fledged war in Afghanistan or Iraq, but sent in special ops, drones, missiles with specific targets;
If we had put aside any attempts to democratize and change the population on the ground and win hearts and minds;...
... Islamic terrorists, by whatever name, would still be plotting terror attacks on the United States, other Western nations, and Israel.
The US economy would still be in jeopardy.
We would still be honoring those who were killed ten years ago as well as the first responders who came to their aid.
We would still be battling the far-Left who want to change this nation.
George W. Bush said, "I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people -- and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"
And hear us they did. Heaven only knows what the terrorists would have done had we not sent them a strong message. Because of George W. Bush's response, we increased our abilities to fight terror, we began to recognize the enemy, we began to seriously fight back against the terrorist efforts here at home and abroad. Could this have been done differently, in different places? Yes, but it had to be done.