Instead, it turned into an extended conflict, which tore at the fabric of our own conscience as much as it made gains against the terrorists. Despite years of efforts to track Mr. bin Laden, he proved elusive. Fears that Saddam Hussein could supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction – ultimately based on wrong intelligence – led to the war in Iraq. But miscalculations there – combined with a diminished focus on Afghanistan – meant that we were soon faced with two wars going badly. A controversial surge in Iraq turned the tide there, but a more modest surge in Afghanistan has yet to prove successful.
By late 2003, the Bush administration had learned that “killing the terrorists” was a short-term tactic, not a long-term strategy. With President Bush’s November 2003 speeches to the National Endowment for Democracy and at London’s Royal Banqueting House, he articulated the need to promote freedom, democracy, and human development as the means to undermine the appeal of extremism. To paraphrase his message: “For 60 years, we sacrificed freedom in the Middle East in the name of stability, and got neither. Now we know the only path to real stability and security is through freedom.” This gave rise to the Broader Middle East initiative and the Forum for the Future, both launched at the 2004 Group of 8 Summit in Sea Island, Ga.