How the War on Terror has changed since 9/11

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," September 11, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: A moment of silence in New York and around the country as we remember 9/11 and all those who lost their lives on this day. This as the war on terror continues in a different way. You just saw that piece from 2002. Now there are real challenges for this administration. One of them is Syria and the effort to get Syrian rebels in place.

This piece from Politico: "With all the U.S.-trained fighters dead, captured, or missing, and their leader in the hands of Al Qaeda, top U.S. commanders are scrambling this week to determine how to revive the half billion-dollar program to create a moderate Syrian material fight the Islamic State. The outgoing of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey who viewed the force as a critical element of the military strategy in both Syria and Iraq is conferring with top Pentagon officials behind closed doors to figure out what options are left for what is widely considered a policy and military failure according to senior defense officials."

Let's start there. Let's bring in our panel, Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review; Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

OK, Jonah, thoughts?

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, where to Begin? I don't think the country is better shape 14 years after 9/11 than it was the day before 9/11 or the day after. I think that the War on Terror in many ways is worse. Certainly the ideology has metastasized that ISIS is a problem that is much greater than Al Qaeda ever was.

And to talk about Syria for just a moment, the effort to combat ISIS in Syria, this inherent resolve and this training of this army that never materialized, you talk to some intelligence people and they say that this makes the Bay of Pigs look like the Normandy landing it has been so unbelievably incompetent.

And I think that, you know, you can put a lot of blame on Bush for going into the Iraq war. That's a fine argument to have. But there is a lot of blame to go on President Obama for how we got out of Iraq and the mess he has left in the Middle East.

BAIER: I guess, Kirsten, the contrast what we saw after 9/11, and obviously the country was unified on 9/12 to do something quickly. But then to see the inability to get a moderate Syrian force or any force to do anything in Syria is kind of shocking

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY: Also, because I think part of it that was the threat was so downplayed. If you remember how it was downplayed by President Obama that we had basically taken care of this problem. We now find out that it looks like it's possible that the books were being cooked by -- the intelligence analysis was saying it was a much bigger threat than what we were hearing about.

And somewhere in this -- you know, where it was getting transmitted up to the White House, it was changing into something that was much lesser of a threat, which would suggest that the White House was asking for this because it is really not in the intelligence agency's interest to be downplaying terror threats.

BAIER: And that's interesting. That piece that James Rosen pressed at the White House the other day about, you know, remember candidate Obama pressed about the Bush administration saying that they were cooking the books on the Iraq War. And now there are allegations from 50 intel analysts that that's what's happened.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, when you have an operation that's utterly incompetent as the fictional Syrian army, 60 people that we had trained, all of whom I believe are lost, missing, and captured, or dead, you have to cook the books.

But it seems to me the bigger issue is do we have the leadership, the will in the country. But the will depends on leadership to maintain a generational struggle. We remember the cold war as this wonderful, great victory. We're all united. We weren't. It lasted almost half a century. We had a victory or two at the beginning, Turkey and Greece in the Truman days, and then it was a terrible slog -- Korea, Vietnam with defeats, the Bay of Pigs. But, in the end we had leadership. Every president said, starting with especially Kennedy in 1961, it's a long twilight struggle. What we are getting here and what we got for the last six years with Obama is a president who said this war is unsustainable, it's hurting us. It's changing us in ways, it's got to end, as if he could decree its end. And so he says the tide of war is receding. There's no surprise the country isn't united on this, that the country sort of doesn't want to continue the struggle. And it seems to me there is one other mistake. We always identify it with Al Qaeda or ISIS and the Sunni radicals. The other church of radical Islam is Iran, Shiite. And it is organized country with a huge economy with oil, and we have now, as of yesterday, made it into a major regional power which will acquire nuclear weapons. This is a long twilight struggle and it looks as if we have leadership that doesn't want to recognize it and wants to live in a different universe.

BAIER: In the changing geopolitical situation we have seen, as the U.S. steps back a bit, perhaps, Russia has stepped forward. We confirm that Russian forces are on the ground in Syria first. And there are big numbers. Tonight a senior defense official is saying that components of Russian surface-to-air missiles have been seen in Syria. And the president talked about Russia in Syria today.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I remember a conversation I had with Mr. Putin four or five years ago where I told him that was a mistake, it would make things worse as long as continued to support Assad. He did not take my warnings, and as a consequence things have gotten worse. But we are going to be engaging Russia to let them know that you can't continue to double down on a strategy that's doomed to failure.


BAIER: Jonah?

GOLDBERG: I love that. You know, if only -- the problem is only that Putin didn't listen to me, right? I mean, that is the gist of it.

This is a guy who came in promising a reset and was based on ideological point of view about the world, and whenever reality diverged with his ideological point of view he stayed with his ideological point of view. Russia, he mocked Mitt Romney Russian was our biggest geopolitical threat. Now Russia is essentially the leader of the axis of evil, which was a much pooh-poohed concept a little while ago. And the world was much more dangerous place than when Barack Obama took office.

BAIER: Quickly, Kirsten, you talk to Democrats on the Hill, they see Iran how they got it through as a victory. But, you know, he is talking about Russia there. They are not listening. China is behind the hack on the government OPM system. And Iran now is emboldened.

POWERS: Right. Yes, well, it's interesting to listen even in the tone that he is using and the way is talking to, you know, to Putin as though Putin is going to just not do something because Barack Obama said it's a mistake. I think it's so disengaged, right? It's not this -- you need to threaten him, basically. Like you can't just tell him not it do it because it's a mistake.

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