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Why Trump Should Disrupt the Scandalous US-Saudi Relationship
by Elan Journo | May 21, 2017
Trump Should Break the American Tradition of Ignoring Egypt’s Abuse of Its People
by Elan Journo | April 03, 2017
After This Jordanian Criticized ISIS He Was Thrown In Jail Then Murdered
by Elan Journo | November 17, 2016
Understanding the Jihadist Menace
by The Editors | June 16, 2016
We Can’t Beat Jihadists Unless We’re Real About Their Motivations
by Elan Journo | April 21, 2016
The Misunderstood Mullahs
by Elan Journo | March 31, 2016
Iran’s Faux Multiple Personality Disorder
by Elan Journo | August 10, 2015
Paving the Way for a Nuclear Iran
by Elan Journo | July 14, 2015
After 9/11, Lessons Unlearned
by Elan Journo | September 11, 2014
The Israel-Palestinian War
by Elan Journo | July 28, 2014
With or Without Nukes, Iran Is a Mortal Threat
by Elan Journo | November 21, 2013
Twenty Years after Oslo: Where Next for U.S. Policy?
by Elan Journo | September 10, 2013
Islamist Winter
by Elan Journo | Fall/Winter 2013
World Upside Down
by Elan Journo | November 27, 2012
The Islamist Threat: From AfPak to Jyllands-Posten and Times Square
by John David Lewis | September 08, 2011
Upheavals in the Middle East: Assessing the political landscape
by Yaron Brook | September 08, 2011
Iran, Israel and the West
by Elan Journo | September 08, 2011
Our Self-Crippled War
by Elan Journo | September 10, 2009
An Unwinnable War?
by Elan Journo | Fall 2009
Obama Whitewashes Iran
by Elan Journo | March 03, 2009
The Price of Bush’s Commitment to Palestinian Statehood
by Elan Journo | March 28, 2008
How to Stop Iran?
by Elan Journo | June 26, 2007
The “Forward Strategy” for Failure
by Yaron Brook | Spring 2007
Washington’s Make-Believe Policy on Iran
by Elan Journo | February 12, 2007
What Real War Looks Like
by Elan Journo | December 07, 2006
The Jihad on America
by Elan Journo | Fall 2006
Why We Are Losing Hearts and Minds
by Keith Lockitch | September 06, 2006
The Indispensable Condition of Peace
by Onkar Ghate | July 21, 2006
The U.S.-Israeli Suicide Pact
by Elan Journo | July 20, 2006
Washington’s Pro-Hamas Foreign Policy
by Elan Journo | May 17, 2006
Death to “Diplomacy” with Iran
by Elan Journo | October 27, 2005
The Advent of Freedom?
by Onkar Ghate | October 12, 2005
The Perversity of U.S. Backing for the Gaza Retreat
by Elan Journo | August 30, 2005
Bush’s Betrayal of America: The Iraqi Elections
by Elan Journo | February 01, 2005
Arafat’s Undeserved Honor: The West’s Shame
by Elan Journo | November 16, 2004
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict . . . What Is the Solution?
by Yaron Brook | December 12, 2002
America Is Not Winning the War
by Onkar Ghate | August 29, 2002
Bush’s Vision for Peace: Prelude to War
by Onkar Ghate | July 01, 2002
Israel Has a Moral Right to Its Life
by Yaron Brook | June 24, 2002


Foreign Policy in Voice for Reason
Foreign PolicyMiddle East

After 9/11, Lessons Unlearned

by Elan Journo | September 11, 2014

Thirteen years have passed since jihadists rammed jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Doubtless the images of the Twin Towers collapsing are indelible, and the toll in human life was achingly massive. In time, though, memory fades. By themselves, our impressions of the past are insufficient to guide our thinking and action. We need consciously to identify lessons from our experience.

What should we learn? Here are three crucial lessons, still unlearned.

Lesson #1: America’s selfless foreign policy encouraged Islamist aggression.

Writing days after the attacks, Leonard Peikoff explained that: “Fifty years of increasing American appeasement in the Mideast have led to fifty years of increasing contempt in the Muslim world for the U.S. The climax was September 11, 2001.” My talk, “The Road to 9/11,” looks at several episodes of pre-9/11 Islamist aggression and the self-effacing responses of the Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton Administrations. Standing apart from conventional thinking, ARI advocates for a foreign policy guided by the moral ideal of rational egoism, a policy that resolutely protects the lives and freedom of Americans.

What does that look like? Peter Schwartz’s monograph, The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest: A Moral Ideal for America lays out what an egoist approach looks like in theory and practice (purchase Kindle ebook or paperback). My book, Winning the Unwinnable War: America’s Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism, analyses the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and applies Ayn Rand’s ethics to foreign policy, defining a path to victory against the enemy. (Read the introduction.)

Lesson #2. The enemy is not just Bin Laden, or Al Qaeda, but the Islamist movement.

“Know your enemy” is a necessary condition for figuring out how to defeat the threat. Tragically, neither before nor after 9/11 did American policymakers understand the enemy. It is hopelessly superficial to think of the enemy as “terrorists” (many groups use that tactic) or “haters” or “hijackers of a great religion,” or Al Qaeda, etc. Bin Laden has been dead three-plus years, and Al Qaeda has been damaged — but clearly the threat persists.

After 9/11, Lessons Unlearned

The enemy is the Islamic totalitarian movement. It is a cause that encompasses many factions, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, Hamas, the theocratic regime in Iran, the Islamic State, along with numerous al Qaeda offshoots. What unites them is the common goal of imposing Allah’s laws through conquest and subjugation. Recruits to the movement — from the Middle East, Europe, even the U.S. — embrace it as an ideological cause. Yet American policymakers evasively dance around the task of properly identifying the enemy. Many still see only disconnected dots, rather than the big picture: that we face an ideological movement.

For more on this issue, see the following:

“Disconnected Dots” by Elan Journo

“Jihad on America” by Elan Journo

Lesson #3. America’s post-9/11 military response was self-crippled.

In its power, sophistication, efficacy, and courage, the U.S. military is unequalled. So why did Afghanistan, where we faced Islamists armed with Kalashnikovs and beat-up SUVs, become America’s longest war, ever?

Fundamentally, the problem was not military, but political: the philosophic ideas shaping our war policy undercut the military campaign. In my book, I argue that by subordinating military victory to perverse, allegedly moral constraints, Washington’s policy undermined our national security. Instead of seeking to eliminate real threats — notably from the Tehran regime — the overarching policy goal was a crusade for democracy and nation-building in the Mideast. In the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, our military was hamstrung by self-effacing policies that prevented our troops from defeating whatever threats they faced. In its strategic objective and tactical conduct, our war policy was warped by conventional (wrong) ideas about morality.

The following items explain and illustrate the role of philosophic ideas in shaping U.S. policy:

“An Unwinnable War?” by Elan Journo

“Destination Nonvictory” by Elan Journo

“The Real Disgrace: Washington’s Battlefield ‘Ethics’” by Elan Journo

“The Forward Strategy for Failure” by Yaron Brook and Elan Journo

“Neoconservative Foreign Policy: An Autopsy” by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein

“What Real War Looks Like” by Elan Journo

“America Is Not Winning the War” by Onkar Ghate

“Looking Back at the Post–9/11 Decade” by Elan Journo

“Obama Whitewashes Iran” by Elan Journo

In a video interview with my colleague Steve Simpson, I expand on a number these points and touch on recent developments in the Middle East.

About The Author

Elan Journo

Senior Fellow and Vice President of Content Products, Ayn Rand Institute