On this Memorial Day, it's important to remember that the very same U.S. policies that created al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980s—leading to the horrific attacks of 9/11—are today allowing al-Qaeda to metastasize all around the Muslim world. As in the 80s, these new terrorist cells are quietly gathering strength now, and are sure to deliver future terror strikes that will make 9/11 seem like child's play.
To understand this dire prediction, we must first examine the United States' history of empowering Islamic jihadis—only to be attacked by those same jihadis many years later—and the chronic shortsightedness of American policymakers, whose policies are based on their brief tenure, not America's long-term wellbeing.
In the 1980s, the U.S. supported Afghani rebels—among them the jihadis—to repel the Soviets. Osama bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri, and countless foreign jihadis journeyed to Afghanistan to form a base of training and planning—the first prerequisite of the jihad, as delineated in Sayyid Qutb's Milestones.
Al-Qaeda—which tellingly means "the base"—was born.
The U.S. supported al-Qaeda, they defeated the Soviets, shook hands with Reagan, Afghanistan became ruled by the Taliban, and for many years all seemed well.
But it wasn't. For over a decade al-Qaeda, unfettered in Afghanistan, trained and plotted. Then came the strikes of 9/11, which were portrayed by the talking heads as a great and unexpected surprise: "What happened? Who knew? Why do they hate us?"
Had al-Qaeda not secured a base of operations, its namesake, 9/11 would not have occurred.
But if Reagan helped create the first al-Qaeda cell in relatively unimportant Afghanistan, Obama is helping to create numerous, more emboldened, al-Qaeda cells in some of the most important Islamic nations.
He is doing this by helping get rid of Arab autocrats who were effective at suppressing jihadis (even if for selfish reasons), while empowering some of the most radical jihadis who were formerly imprisoned or in hiding.
And all in the name of the "Arab Spring" and "democracy."
In Egypt, Obama threw Mubarak, America's chief Mideast ally for three decades, under the bus, and cozied up to the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt's government is today overrun with Islamists, many who share al-Qaeda's radical worldview. Several of these new policymakers—including President Morsi himself—were imprisoned under Mubarak, not, as the Western media portray, because they were freedom-loving rebels, but because they were, and are, Sharia-loving radicals trying to transform Egypt into an Islamist state.
The Sinai alone is now infested with jihadis, including possibly al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri.
In Libya, Obama supported the opposition against Gaddafi—knowing full well that al-Qaeda was among them—enabling the Benghazi attack and murder of Americans on the anniversary of 9/11. The unprecedented persecution of Christians in Libya—from attacks on churches to attacks on nuns—is further indicative of the direction "liberated" Libya is taking.
And now in Syria, Obama is, once again, supporting foreign jihadis, who make up 95% of Syria's so-called "opposition." As in Libya—and as in Afghanistan in the 80s—foreign jihadis are flooding Syria and terrorizing non-Muslims (a recent fatwa permits the raping of non-Sunni women), in their bid to create another base, another qaeda.
One of them recently declared, "When we finish with Assad, we will fight the U.S.!"—precisely al-Qaeda's thinking in the 80s-90s when it was supported by the U.S. against the U.S.S.R.
Thus all the forces and circumstances that led up to the strikes of 9/11—foreign jihadis infiltrating and consolidating power in Muslim countries formerly run by secular dictators—are once again in full play, but in a much more profound way. Today it's not just one relatively unimportant country, Afghanistan, that is being subverted by jihadis but several strategically important nations.
If 9/11 was the price the U.S later paid for helping turn Afghanistan into a jihadi base in the 80s-90s, what price will America later pay now that it's betraying several major nations to the jihadis, who are turning them into bases, into qaedas?
So why are American politicians not blowing the whistle on Obama's suicidal policies?
Because their myopia and inability to see beyond today—beyond their tenure—has not changed since September 11, 2001. Just as it took over a decade after al-Qaeda's creation to launch the 9/11 attacks—a time of ostensible peace and calm for the U.S., a time of planning and training for the jihadis—it will take time for the new jihadi storm to pour on America.
And that's the era we're currently in: the calm before the storm. Just as before 9/11, today's American leaders focus only on the moment—a moment when the U.S appears relatively safe—never considering the future or the inevitable consequences of a woefully counterproductive U.S. foreign policy.
Speaking of foreign policy, if Reagan supported the jihadis to combat the U.S.S.R—a hostile super-power—why is Obama supporting the jihadis? What exactly does America have to gain?
At any rate, just as it was before 9/11, when the jihadi storm eventually does break out—and it will, it's a matter of time—those American politicians who helped empower it, chief among them Obama, will be long gone, and the talking heads will again be stupidly asking "What happened?" "Who knew?" Why do they hate us?"
Except then it will be too late.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.