Mike on Terrorism

The world remains a dangerous place and, at this time, many of the threats come from groups that cannot be isolated and sanctioned like aggressors that are nation-states. We have seen horrific attacks on civilian targets, schools, hospitals, restaurants, mosques, churches and synagogues, and executions of many innocent persons.

In the aftermath of 9/11, I supported the use of force in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime sheltered and supported al Qaeda terrorists who attacked our country and made plain their intention to continue protecting these terrorists. I voted to authorize use of force in 2001 against those responsible for the September 11th attacks (P.L. 107-40). President Bush rightly determined that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was providing shelter and material support to al-Qaeda, and he sent U.S. forces to Afghanistan to root out the terrorists.

May 1, 2011 marked a significant victory in the war on terror when U.S. Navy Seals killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. The fact that bin Laden was found in Pakistan emphasizes the complexity of our relations with that country. President Obama noted that “close counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan” helped us locate him yet bin Laden had been living near a major army base, not far from the capital city of Islamabad.

I opposed the invasion of Iraq and in October of 2002 voted against granting President Bush the authority to use force there. I continue to believe the Iraq war distracted us from Afghanistan where we might have done more to assist in reconstruction and thwart the resurgence of the Taliban and its expansion into the western provinces of Pakistan. Our invasion and withdrawal from Iraq have left a vacuum of governance and led to the troubling emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS). The civil war in Syria, marked by internal atrocities and millions of refugees, presents more opportunity for non-state terrorists, as does the plight of Libya. I joined a suit against President Obama for attacking Libya without Congressional authorization and, in that county too, fighting between warring militias has led to atrocities and the tragic deaths of hundreds of refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean Sea.

I strongly believe that, despite the Islamic State’s horrifying atrocities and public flaunting of brutal executions, the United States should be cautious about military intervention in the Middle East. We have an important role to play in organizing concerted actions against ISIS, in coalition with other nations. Yet, too many examples in the very recent past remind us wartime coalitions that met with initial success on the battlefield have had decidedly mixed results in the aftermath. Without firm commitments from our partners in the region, including ground troops which they should be able to supply, and without a direct and obvious threat to the United States, I am not prepared to support direct U.S. engagement in a prolonged ground war with ISIS.

I am very concerned about the aftermath of our involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither country is stable, and non-state terrorists appear to be growing in strength throughout South Asia, the Middle East and in many places in Africa. Our policies must also be mindful of the “Arab Spring” and its sequels. We sympathize with the democratic aspirations of all people but we recognize that new regimes may be less willing to cooperate in resisting terrorist networks or that internal conflicts may make them unable to do so.

I continue to believe, however, that the U.S. remains justified in pursuing terrorist groups when they, or the lone wolves they inspire, threaten our country. We need to also develop coherent policies to meet the social, economic, and political conditions in which they find it so easy to recruit hopeless young people.