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An intense US focus on checking terrorism

Terrorists have not succeeded in striking on US soil since 9/11. But some say the US focus was too much on a military response, regime change, and a 'with us or against us' mentality.

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As pervasive as the war in Iraq may be in analyzing President Bush's foreign policy, other decisions and initiatives will also carry weight well into the future. Exhibit A: the war on terror and the way Mr. Bush chose to respond to Al Qaeda's 9/11 assault.

In judging him on this front, perhaps the bottom line is that terrorists have not succeeded in striking on US soil since 9/11.

"The fact is that we have not had another mass-casualty terrorist attack since 9/11, even though at the time it was considered a matter of when, not if, by terrorism experts and authorities," says Robert Lieber, a professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University in Washington.

Credit for this, says Professor Lieber, goes to security measures – sometimes controversial – taken at home and the reorganization of domestic agencies. Also key is what he calls "the quiet and sustained cooperation between American and foreign intelligence authorities." That cooperation is not often associated with Bush, he adds, "but it has been real and crucial."

Others say the US focus was too much on a military response, regime change, and a "with us or against us" mentality.

"You had this enormous confidence that American military power alone could defeat terrorism and rogue states, and from there they adopted responses and techniques that went against American history and values," says Lee Hamilton, who served as vice chairman of the 9/11 commission.

Among the practices adopted or initiatives taken: opening the Guantánamo detention facility and the rendition of terrorist suspects to third countries where torture was known to be employed.

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