The ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks presents a crucial opportunity to reflect on the catastrophic mistakes of the last decade of the ‘war on terror’, argues a new report from the Oxford Research Group.
The report, A War Gone Badly Wrong - The War on Terror Ten Years On, assesses the consequences of the response from the United States and its coalition partners. It questions whether the response was either appropriate or wise and whether the results so far have been counterproductive – and may even indicate the need for an entirely new security paradigm.
The report compares the original war aims of the Bush and Blair administrations in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack with the actual outcomes. Only by doing so, says the report, is it possible to get a clear idea of the unexpected consequences in terms of the longevity of the conflicts, the human costs, the financial implications and the political developments.
The report also points out that analysts at Oxford Research Group were amongst the minority of commentators at the time arguing that the 9/11 attacks should be seen as appalling examples of transnational criminality, “the appropriate response being rooted in policing and international legal processes aimed at bringing to justice those behind the attacks”.
The report’s author, Professor Paul Rogers said: “To see the attacks as requiring a major military response – a ‘war on terror’ – assigned to the perpetrators precisely the attention that they sought, and proved to be deeply counter-productive.
“A brief war in Afghanistan is shortly to enter its second decade, seven years of war in Iraq have yet to bring a lasting peace, and Pakistan remains deeply unstable. Meanwhile, groups linked loosely with the al-Qaida movement make progress in Yemen, Nigeria, Algeria and the Horn of Africa.”
Pointing out that the impact across the Middle East, North Africa and South and Central Asia will be felt for decades to come, Professor Rogers added: “Perhaps the most significant aspect of the post-9/11 wars has been the increased influence of Iran. Far from being constrained by US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the problems that arose in both countries have meant that Iran has more freedom to exert influence.”
A major finding of the report is that despite the opportunity presented by the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks for honest reflection, politicians and military planners risk repeating the mistakes of the last decade.
It states: “A comprehensive assessment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is needed in much greater depth” than is currently being undertaken in Britain and the US, in order to “increase caution in responding too readily to difficult circumstances with military force.”
“It has become increasingly clear over the last decade that the United States and its partners must learn from the evident failure of the ‘war on terror’ by paying more attention to the underlying causes of the conflicts, especially the factors motivating young paramilitaries to take extreme action.”