The Wall Street Journal offered an op-ed response to this question in their Friday, 9/9, issue. The responses were extremely varied. Some suggested that invading Iraq was a huge mistake. Some disagree. All thought a response to Afghanistan was called for militarily. You could predict the responses in advance if you knew their personal stance on international engagement and the use of military force. Paul Wolfowitz and Joe Lieberman were OK with the wide-scale use of force while Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert McFarlane were not. One commentator, the author Mark Helprin, argued that we should have invaded the countries that held terrorists in them, brought down the dictators, and then left! He argues that “reforming” the Arab world will never work so why should we have begun a course that has led to failure. Hmmmm.
What is the right answer? I have no idea. And if you do then I think you will believe in your own view of the world regardless of the complications involved in holding to unshakable views of international policy and America's military response.
I lean toward the opinion that we should never have gone into Iraq. I have grave doubts about our current policies in Afghanistan. But having said that these views are nothing more than my personal opinions.
So did our nation overreact? My guess is that history will debate this point for the next 50 to 100 years. Private papers and information will eventually come to light and the actions of our decision makers will be subjected to historical scrutiny. Until then I guess we would all do better to hold our opinions but to do so with a great deal of reservation about the hard facts, which none of us possesses at this point. Pundits will debate and make strong statements. The rest of us are simply left to our opinions.
Meanwhile, we should question all policy about how and when we use military force in places far removed from the U.S. It seems, increasingly, that our own generals have begun to express this view with clarity and urgency.