Next month, America will honor the anniversary of September 11, 2001, when terrorists killed nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens. In the days after 9/11, Americans stood together as one, setting aside partisan fervor and recognized a common enemy in Islamist terrorist groups, particularly al-Qaeda. National security was rightfully restored as our nation’s highest priority.
Ten years later, Osama bin Laden is dead, delivering to victims’ families and the rest of America a bit of justice for the heinous acts we all witnessed. But one terrorist’s death does not justify returning to the national security mindset that existed prior to that day.
As Thomas Paine said, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
That notion is ever true. Thanks to important policies put into place after 9/11, America has been able to thwart at least 41 publicly known terrorist attacks. Such vigilance saved lives and will continue to do so moving forth. As Heritage’s Matt Mayer wrote days after bin Laden’s death:
In terrorist hideouts across the globe, many men with similarly warped views are eager to become the next bin Laden. They know the path to that title lays in successfully attacking us domestically and causing substantial death and destruction.
The global war on terror that began as a result of 9/11 continues, and brave men and women risk their lives daily to protect America and prevent future acts of terrorism. As soldiers return from Afghanistan and Iraq after third or fourth tours of duty, we’re reminded that a clear and present danger remains.
Unfortunately, President Obama isn’t taking the threat seriously enough. The embattled debt ceiling policy outcome proved this, delivering a bitter pill of $500 billion in cuts to our national security.
Heritage’s Baker Spring writes of the policy:
…the policy established by the debt ceiling law will strip the military of its ability to secure the vital interests of the United States. The law, unless it is altered or repealed, will do irreparable harm to the United States military.
… History has repeatedly shown that these kinds of reductions in defense are penny wise and pound foolish, because they often serve to increase the likelihood of conflict. And weakness that invites war is much more expensive than deterring our enemies by maintaining an adequate defense budget all along.
Without the necessary security, America’s position as a world superpower will begin to decline. And still, President Obama and congressional liberals press on, putting our national security in jeopardy. Defense spending is far below its historical average, while money spent on unsustainable entitlement programs eats up two-thirds of the federal budget. America’s budgetary priorities are badly mismanaged, and our readiness suffers as a result.
Heritage’s Mackenzie Eaglen writes:
No military service has been immune from wear and tear over 10 years of constant combat and other operations. According to General Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, Jr., two-thirds of non-deployed Marines are not at acceptable readiness levels. This means they’re unable to respond to unforeseen crises if needed.
America’s military requires the ability to respond forcefully and effectively, and it relies on Congress and the President to provide the necessary resources.
As Abraham Lincoln said in the Gettysburg Address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
As the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it’s important to honor the victims and the heroes of that day by not only remaining on guard, but promising we will never quit this important fight until the threat no longer exists.
Leading up to September 11, The Heritage Foundation will be hosting a series of events and releasing critical research and analysis designed to educate America on the remaining threat and offer the right policy course to keep us safe.
We will also be asking Americans to join us in a display of unity once again. On Sunday, September 11, 2011, we hope that every neighborhood across the nation is flooded with American flags celebrating the lives of those we lost in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania and the heroism we witnessed, while also reminding each other that the fight to prevent another attack is not over.
Please continue to check in with us here on The Foundry, at Heritage.org and on Facebook and Twitter over the next four weeks. On Twitter, send us pictures of your flag flying by using the hashtag #Flag911 in your tweet to offer your own remembrances and encourage others to join with us.
We must remember how we stood as a nation with a shared purpose and intensity on September 12, 2001 and in the days following. That collective and eternal vigilance is still essential. Never quit.