Report: World More Dangerous, Blasts President Bush

A bipartisan expert survey released this week says the war in Iraq is having a negative impact on national security; the US is losing the war on terror; and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the most urgent foreign policy objective. The government of North Korea is also the second most dangerous in the world, just behind President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

The Terrorism Index is the second compiled by the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy magazine, and is based on a survey of more than 100 top US foreign policy experts, both Republican and Democrat. Eighty percent of the experts have served in the US government – they include former secretaries of state, national security advisors, senior White House aides, top military commanders, seasoned intelligence officers and distinguished academics and journalists.

The foreign policy community believes that US foreign policies and priorities are significantly flawed, with 87 percent regarding US public diplomacy as a failure. Eighty-one percent believe the world is becoming more dangerous and 75 percent say the US is losing the war on terror. Seventy percent say President Bush has no clear plan to protect the US from terrorism, a figure that includes 40 percent conservative respondents. Over 80 percent of the experts foresee another terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 within the decade.

Eighty-eight percent said the war in Iraq is having a negative impact on US national security, although 34 percent agreed that troops should be increased to try to stabilize the country. Participants noted significant improvements in the performance of 6 out of 9 agencies engaged in the war on terror since the last index was compiled in June 2006, including the CIA and the Defense Department, whose improvements were attributed to their new chiefs.

The majority of participants believe that Iraq is not the central front in the war on terror and is distracting the US from more dangerous threats such as the nuclear threat posed by North Korea – whose denuclearization is regarded as the single most important US foreign policy imperative of the next five years. The Bush administration’s policy toward Pyongyang which has until recently marginalized diplomatic efforts had not been working, and the experts hailed the recent diplomatic agreement reached as a significant breakthrough for US national security. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed rated North Korea as the country most likely to transfer nuclear technology to terrorist groups.

Almost 70 percent of respondents support troop level increases in Afghanistan because the government is ‘faltering – and fast’. Attacks against US and NATO forces have increased 300 percent since September and, with a Taliban offensive expected this spring, the military commanders have suggested that the troop surge in Iraq ‘may be the right idea in the wrong place’. They also note that al Qaeda has helped the Taliban adopt more deadly improvized explosive devices (IEDs) which were developed in Iraq.

While almost 95 percent of experts agree that the US has made progress at staunching the flow of terrorist money worldwide, this is tempered by the declining cost of devising explosives such as those used in the coordinated bombings in Bali in 2002 ($50,000) which killed 202 people, Madrid in 2004 ($10,000) which killed 191 people and London in 2005 ($2,000) which killed 52 people. Hundreds more were injured in each attack.

Terrorist organizations in the Middle East, including Hezbollah and Hamas, are generally seen to be growing in strength.

 

How would you rank the relative strength of the following organizations today as opposed to the same time last year?

Much Weaker

Somewhat Weaker

About the Same

Somewhat Stronger

Much Stronger

Hamas

1

17

26

45

11

Taliban

2

3

12

57

26

al Qaeda

7

30

30

31

3

Hezbollah

1

4

5

39

52

Taliban and al Qaeda leadership are now regrouping and coordinating their efforts along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and 91 percent of experts say that the US ‘must increase pressure dramatically on Pakistan to confront militants in the tribal areas’. The majority of participants believe that Somalia will become the next al Qaeda stronghold, and to a slightly lesser extent Pakistan.

The Iranian government under President Ahmadinejad was judged the most dangerous in the world. Nearly three-quarters of the experts disapproved of President Bush’s handling of relations with Iran, and 61 percent opposed military action even if Iran ‘continues to develop nuclear weapons’. This contrasts with 40 percent public approval for the Bush administration’s Iran policy and 52 percent supporting a military strike to check Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

 Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling relations with Iran?
 

Approve

Disapprove

Experts

27

73

Public

40

31

 Would you support or oppose military action against Iran if it continues to develop nuclear weapons?
 

Support

Oppose

Unsure

Experts

27

61

13

Public

52

37

11

Experts generally felt less safe than the general public with respect to terrorism and national security. Only 12 percent of experts saw the world as safer than before the 9/11 attacks, while nearly half the public respondents felt safer. And while nearly half of Americans believe the US is winning the war on terror, only 16 percent of experts would agree. Experts were also more likely to recommend stepping back from military escalation in favor of diplomacy in the event of strained relations between countries.

The Terrorism Index can be viewed in full at either of the following links:

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/02/terrorism_index.html

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3700

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