Ten years after the United States declared a global war on terrorism, the question “Are we winning?” comes to mind.
Associate Professor Bernard Finel of the National War College told a University of Central Florida audience Tuesday that the U.S. has reached a stalemate.
“We are no closer to ‘victory’ after ten years,” he said. “Successes are matched by reversals. As one country gets better, another gets worse.”
Finel’s presentation, which was organized by UCF’s Global Perspectives Office, drew more than 150 students, faculty and members of the community. The forum was part of the office’s 2010-2011 programming theme “Global Peace and Security.”
Finel, an adjunct fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan think tank American Security Project, authors ASP’s annual report, “Are We Winning? Measuring Progress in the Struggle Against al-Qaeda and Associated Movements.”
ASP’s annual report aims to quantify America’s progress in the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, or the Long War. Based on 10 categories, which include terrorist incidents, al-Qaeda leadership and state sponsorship of terrorism, the report provides measurable results to gauge U.S. progress.
Finel discussed the latest report’s findings and broader implications during his presentation at UCF. The bottom line, he said, is that the U.S. is at a deadlock.
Finel said incidents of Islamist terrorism have increased, and domestic attitudes have become more radicalized with the recent anti-mosque movement at Ground Zero. Though al-Qaeda’s popularity seemed to wane in the last few years, affiliated movements are now thriving in Yemen and Somalia, he said.
What is worse, he added, is that Muslim attitudes about the U.S. are as poor as ever. Any “Obama effect” that might have improved the U.S. image abroad has been dampened by the continued support of Israel or military presence in Afghanistan.
It is difficult to “drain the swamp” of support for terrorism if the U.S. cannot first win hearts and minds, Finel said.
Citing the tremendous human and financial costs of the Long War, Finel asked if the audience was satisfied with the war’s progress, productivity and cost.
He argued that the U.S. is engaged in a long war, but fighting as if it were a short battle. Managing the terrorist threat until the next generation can displace current Islamist extremism is where the U.S. stands to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
In addition to the UCF Global Perspectives Office, sponsors included the Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellowship program, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, LarsonAllen LLP, the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, the UCF Diplomacy Program, the UCF Political Science Department, the UCF Middle Eastern Studies Program, the UCF Terrorism Studies Program, the UCF International Services Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.