In every war the U.S. has ever fought, it has overestimated the strength of its enemies, says Fareed Zakaria at Newsweek. And the war provoked by the attacks of September 11, 2001 is no different. The "national-security state" that has risen since the attacks has resulted in a "vast expansion in the government's powers" — "some 30,000 people are now employed exclusively to listen in on phone conversations and other communications in the United States" — but all to fight an incompetent enemy who conducts its war with a miniscule network of amateur jihadis. Is it too soon to call the unwieldy security apparatus we've built up since 9/11 an enormous overreaction? Here's an excerpt:
I do not minimize Al Qaeda’s intentions, which are barbaric. I question its capabilities. In every recent conflict, the United States has been right about the evil intentions of its adversaries but massively exaggerated their strength...
September 11 was a shock to the American psyche and the American system. As a result, we overreacted... The amount of money spent on intelligence has risen by 250 percent, to $75 billion (and that’s the public number, which is a gross underestimate). That’s more than the rest of the world spends put together...
In the past, the U.S. government has built up for wars, assumed emergency authority, and sometimes abused that power, yet always demobilized after the war. But this is a war without end. When do we declare victory? When do the emergency powers cease?
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