‘Things have gotten worse’: Regrets from America’s war on terror | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack | #education | #technology | #infosec

With help from Bryan Bender

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Twenty years after 9/11, some of the leading architects of the United States’ war on terror, both at home and abroad, can breathe a sigh of relief that there has not been another large-scale strike on American soil.

But as our colleagues BRYAN BENDER and DANIEL LIPPMAN reported in POLITICO Magazine’s anniversary coverage, they also have real regrets about some of the key decisions they shaped in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history.

Iraq on their minds: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, the former acting CIA director, said the “theory of the case, from their point of view, was that if you could go into Iraq, take down SADDAM HUSSEIN, demonstrate in a major Arab country democracy could take root, that it would be contagious in the Middle East.

“In 2011, when the Arab Spring unfolded, some people might have said: ‘Oh, it’s working.’ Of course, the Arab Spring didn’t take root anywhere except Tunisia. And it led, in turn, to the civil war in Syria, the collapse of order in Libya. And the civil war in Syria, of course, turbo-charged the Islamic State. … Things have gotten worse.”

Mission creep: “Maybe it was a step too far, as you look back, in terms of all of the costs,” said former Sen. JOE LIEBERMAN of the post-9/11 wars.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, the deputy secretary of Defense and a leading architect of the Iraq invasion, put it this way: “I think we did sort of creep into nation-building as somehow part of our mission, with a certain logic I admit I probably was guilty of espousing, as well. Part of what we were dealing with was a Muslim world that was failing, [and] that failure was allowing extremist Muslims to succeed.”

Anger at Pakistan: “We should have been pushing Pakistan much harder,” said FRAN TOWNSEND, who was deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism and White House homeland security adviser in the Bush years. “It was clear for a whole host of reasons to me that the Pakistanis said they were our allies, but when it came to operationalizing that and intelligence-sharing, not so much. I do fault the Pakistanis for the continuing strength … of the Taliban.”

Wolfowitz was more blunt: “I really believe that, to this day, we’re letting Pakistan get away with murder.”

Drone wars: “We overly relied on drones in the effort in western Pakistan in 2009 to 2011,” said retired Gen. DAVID PETRAEUS, the former CIA director who commanded troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. “If you’re using them with the frequency that we were and the numbers [of civilians] that were being hit, you inevitably violate the most important question that should be on the wall of your operations center: ‘Will this operation take more bad guys off the street then it creates by its conduct?’”

Over-reliance on the military: “We were in a world where every problem was a military problem, and I don’t think in either one of those conflicts [Iraq and Afghanistan] that’s true,” said former Joint Chiefs Chair and retired Air Force Gen. RICHARD MYERS. “The military has to play a role, but it may not be the central role. And we kept trying to make it the central role.”

Read Bender and Lippman’s full piece here.

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