Is the U.S. better off with the Middle East as it is now than as it was before 2001?

For Better or Worse?
By Victor Davis Hanson

After September 11, there were only seven sovereign countries in the Middle East that posed a real danger to the policies and, in some cases, the security of the United States—Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Ignoring the hysteria about the Sunni Triangle in Iraq, if we look at these states empirically, have they become more or less a threat in the last five years?

The Taliban in Afghanistan was actively harboring bin Laden and al Qaeda. Without their support, the mass murder on September 11 would have been difficult to pull off.

Iran was the chief sponsor of Hezbollah, which had killed more Americans than any other Islamist terror organization and was rumored to be at work on obtaining nuclear weapons.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s agents were involved in the first World Trade Center bombing. They were also meeting with al Qaeda operatives throughout the 1990s and offering sanctuary both to al Qaeda offshoots in Kurdistan and, later, to veterans from Afghanistan. As the U.S. Senate observed in 2002, this was in addition to the general problems of no-fly zones, oil-for-food, violations of U.N. and 1991-armistice accords, and periodic retaliatory American bombing.

Libya was a de facto belligerent of the United States, provoking past U.S. air strikes on Tripolis. Among other things, it was involved in the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing and had a clandestine WMD program.

Pakistan had violated both U.N. and U.S. non-proliferation protocols. Its intelligence services were infiltrated by radical Islamists who were responsible for killing American diplomatic personnel and supplying the Taliban with support, as well as directly aiding al Qaeda operatives along the border.

Saudi Arabia, whose 15 subjects comprised the majority of the killers on 9/11, was stealthily giving blackmail money to Islamic terrorists to deflect their anti-Royal Family anger toward the United States. The kingdom’s vast financial clout subsidized radical “charities” and madrassas that offered at a global level the religious and ideological underpinnings for radical and violent Islamic extremism.