The Terrorism Index

Americans are thinking more about the war on terror than ever before. But that doesn’t mean they’ve come to see this issue in the black-and-white terms preferred by many elected leaders. The combination of bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, continued terrorist attacks from Britain to Somalia, and a presidential election in which candidates are defining themselves based on how they would stare down the threats has many seeing shades of gray. Six years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, just 29 percent of Americans believe the United States is winning the war on terror—the lowest percentage at any point since 9/11. But Americans also consider themselves safe. Six in 10 say that they do not believe another terrorist attack is imminent. Likewise, more than 60 percent of Americans now say that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake. Yet around half report that they would support similar military action to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Such seemingly incompatible points of view may stem in part from the fact that we are increasingly asked to reconcile a bewildering array of threats—and a nebulous enemy that defies convention. In Iraq, for instance, the same surge in U.S. forces that is meant to help pacify Baghdad only escalates violence elsewhere in the country. In the broader Middle East and South Asia, some of the same countries that are now the United States’ most crucial allies have also been guilty of cultivating the very terrorists we look to bring to justice. Deciphering priorities from such difficult paradoxes can be hard. So, how can one determine whether the war on terror is making America safer or more dangerous?

To find out, FOREIGN POLICY and the Center for American Progress once again turned to the very people who have run the United States’ national security apparatus during the past half century. Surveying more than 100 of America’s top foreign-policy experts—Republicans and Democrats alike—the FOREIGN POLICY/Center for American Progress Terrorism Index is the only comprehensive, nonpartisan effort to mine the highest echelons of the nation’s foreign-policy establishment for its assessment of how the United States is fighting the war on terror. First released in July 2006, and again last February, the index attempts to draw definitive conclusions about the war’s priorities, policies, and progress. Its participants include people who have served as secretary of state, national security advisor, senior White House aides, top commanders in the U.S. military, seasoned intelligence professionals, and distinguished academics. Eighty percent of the experts have served in the U.S. government—including more than half in the Executive Branch, 32 percent in the military, and 21 percent in the intelligence community.

The world these experts see today is one that continues to grow more threatening. Fully 91 percent say the world is becoming more dangerous for Americans and the United States, up 10 percentage points since February. Eighty-four percent do not believe the United States is winning the war on terror, an increase of 9 percentage points from six months ago. More than 80 percent expect a terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11 within a decade, a result that is more or less unchanged from one year ago.

On the positive side, many of the key agencies charged with ensuring the United States’ national security appear to be getting better at their job. Six of nine agencies, including the Departments of State and Defense, scored above average on the experts’ scale of 0 to 10. One year ago, only one agency scored above average. The National Security Agency fared the best, with an average ranking of 6.6. Many of the policies that these agencies pursue, however, did not fare as well. Nearly every foreign policy of the U.S. government—from domestic surveillance activities and the detention of terrorist suspects at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to U.S. energy policies and efforts in the Middle East peace process—was sharply criticized by the experts. More than 6 in 10 experts, for instance, believe U.S. energy policies are negatively affecting the country’s national security. The experts were similarly critical of the CIA’s rendition of terrorist suspects to countries known to torture prisoners and the Pentagon’s policy of trying detainees before military tribunals.

No effort of the U.S. government was more harshly criticized, however, than the war in Iraq. In fact, that conflict appears to be the root cause of the experts’ pessimism about the state of national security. Nearly all—92 percent—of the index’s experts said the war in Iraq negatively affects U.S. national security, an increase of 5 percentage points from a year ago. Negative perceptions of the war in Iraq are shared across the political spectrum, with 84 percent of those who describe themselves as conservative taking a dim view of the war’s impact. More than half of the experts now oppose the White House’s decision to “surge” additional troops into Baghdad, a remarkable 22 percentage-point increase from just six months ago. Almost 7 in 10 now support a drawdown and redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq.

Chastened by the fighting in Iraq, the U.S national security community also appears eager not to make the same mistakes elsewhere. For instance, though a majority—83 percent—do not believe Tehran when it says its nuclear program is intended for peaceful, civilian purposes, just 8 percent favor military strikes in response. Eight in 10, on the other hand, say the United States should use either sanctions or diplomatic talks to negotiate an end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Similarly, a majority of the experts favor some kind of engagement with groups that may be labeled terrorist organizations but have gained popular support at the ballot box, such as Hamas in the Palestinian Territories or Hezbollah in Lebanon. It’s one indication that, after six years, we may be entering a new chapter in the war on terror.

Ref: Foreign Policy

How Capitalism is Killing Democracy

Free markets were supposed to lead to free societies. Instead, today’s supercharged global economy is eroding the power of the people in democracies around the globe. Welcome to a world where … government takes a back seat to big business. …

Conventional wisdom holds that where either capitalism or democracy flourishes, the other must soon follow. Yet today, their fortunes are beginning to diverge. Capitalism … is thriving, while democracy is struggling to keep up. China … has embraced market freedom, but not political freedom. Many economically successful nations-from Russia to Mexico-are democracies in name only. They are encumbered by the same problems that have hobbled American democracy in recent years, allowing corporations and elites … to undermine the government’s capacity to respond to citizens’ concerns. …

[T]hough free markets have brought unprecedented prosperity to many, they have been accompanied by widening inequalities…, heightened job insecurity, and environmental hazards such as global warming. Democracy is designed to allow citizens to address these very issues in constructive ways. And yet a sense of political powerlessness is on the rise among citizens in Europe, Japan, and the United States… In short, no democratic nation is effectively coping with capitalism’s negative side effects.

This fact is not, however, a failing of capitalism. … Capitalism’s role is to increase the economic pie, nothing more. … Democracy, at its best, enables citizens to debate collectively how the slices of the pie should be divided and to determine which rules apply to private goods and which to public goods. Today, those tasks are increasingly being left to the market. What is desperately needed is a clear delineation of the boundary between global capitalism and democracy-between the economic game, on the one hand, and how its rules are set, on the other. If the purpose of capitalism is to allow corporations to play the market as aggressively as possible, the challenge for citizens is to stop these economic entities from being the authors of the rules by which we live.

The Cost of Doing Business

Most people are of two minds: As consumers and investors, we want the bargains and high returns that the global economy provides. As citizens, we don’t like many of the social consequences that flow from these transactions. We like to blame corporations…, but in truth we’ve made this compact with ourselves. After all, we know the roots of the great economic deals we’re getting. They come from workers forced to settle for lower wages and benefits. They come from companies that shed their loyalties to communities and morph into global supply chains. … And they come from industries that often wreak havoc on the environment. …

Such conflicting sentiments are hardly limited to the United States. The recent wave of corporate restructurings in Europe has shaken the continent’s typical commitment to job security and social welfare. … In Japan, many companies have abandoned lifetime employment, cut workforces, and closed down unprofitable lines. … A nation that once prided itself on being an “all middle-class society” is beginning to show sharp disparities in income and wealth. … Like many free countries around the world, Japan is embracing global capitalism with a democracy too enfeebled to face the free market’s many social penalties.

On the other end of the political spectrum sits China, which is surging toward capitalism without democracy at all. That’s good news for people who invest in China, but the social consequences for the country’s citizens are mounting. … And those who are affected most have little political recourse to change the situation, beyond riots that are routinely put down by force.

But citizens living in democratic … have the ability to alter the rules of the game so that the cost to society need not be so great. And yet, we’ve increasingly left those responsibilities to the private sector-to the companies themselves and their squadrons of lobbyists and public-relations experts-pretending as if some inherent morality or corporate good citizenship will compel them to look out for the greater good. … We forget that they are simply duty bound to protect the bottom line.

The Rules of the Game

Why has capitalism succeeded while democracy has steadily weakened? Democracy has become enfeebled largely because companies, in intensifying competition for global consumers and investors, have invested ever greater sums in lobbying, public relations, and even bribes and kickbacks, seeking laws that give them a competitive advantage over their rivals. The result is an arms race for political influence that is drowning out the voices of average citizens. … The only way for the citizens in us to trump the consumers in us is through laws and rules that make our purchases and investments social choices as well as personal ones. …

Let us be clear: The purpose of democracy is to accomplish ends we cannot achieve as individuals. But democracy cannot fulfill this role when companies use politics to advance or maintain their competitive standing, or when they appear to take on social responsibilities that they have no real capacity or authority to fulfill. That leaves societies unable to address the tradeoffs between economic growth and social problems such as job insecurity, widening inequality, and climate change. As a result, consumer and investor interests almost invariably trump common concerns. …

[F]or those of us living in democracies, it is imperative to remember that we are also citizens who have it in our power to reduce these social costs, making the true price of the goods and services we purchase as low as possible. We can accomplish this larger feat only if we take our roles as citizens seriously. The first step, which is often the hardest, is to get our thinking straight.

How Capitalism Is Killing Democracy, by Robert B. Reich, Foreign Policy (free w/reg.)