What should we have done after 9/11? Clearly, we had not only the right but the responsibility to track down and punish the aggressors behind the attacks and destroy their ability to conduct further attacks. We had the tools at hand to do so – the Rewards for Justice Program had previously been successful in bringing terrorists, including 1993 World Trade Center bombing architect, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, to justice. Bounties work, as we learned in our own history with the use of privateers and letters of marque and reprisal.
Instead, we invaded Afghanistan to pursue "regime change" and "nation-building." Nearly seven years later, the invasion has become an endless occupation, the new government we set up controls only 30 percent of the country, the Taliban menaces Pakistan – and al-Qaeda's leadership remains very much at large.
After that, we invaded Iraq to topple Saddam's Ba'athist regime – a regime that Osama bin Laden ranked second only to the U.S. as an enemy and a country in which al-Qaeda had no significant presence. Five years later, we continue to expend blood and treasure trying to bring peace to a nation we ourselves tipped into chaos. Our occupation provides the only remaining excuse for foreign al-Qaeda fighters to be tolerated by local populations. Indeed, while Shi'ite and Kurdish populations have always opposed Sunni al-Qaeda, even the Sunnis are turning against foreign al-Qaeda forces in areas where the U.S. forces have gotten out of the way. Let's get completely out of the way.
Mary's absolutely right. If we hadn't engaged in "nation-building" and government-approved "regime change," we could have sent mercenaries to take out the entire terrorists without so much as inflicting collateral damage in Afghanistan. We could have avoided the war in Iraq had we pursued this course of action.
Now it's imperative, more than ever, to restore our foreign policy of non-interventionism and not just ending the war in Iraq.