Yes, we are safer in that our sense of vigilance in the US has been heightened, both within the government and within the population as a whole. But in terms of broader American policy since 9/11, has it made us any safer?
We’ve successfully conquered unfriendly regimes in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Numerous unfriendly regimes remain, however, and the population of almost every Muslim nation (and many non-Muslim nations) became vehemently anti-American after the Iraq war. If the US were to conquer Iran and Syria, effectively controlling the entire Middle East, we might gain security against these enemy states. Ah, but enemy states did not attack on 9/11 – stateless terrorists attacked on 9/11. These sorts of terrorists would have thousands of hiding places remaining, and we can never conquer and hold all of them.
Better intelligence and policework have led to the capture of more terrorists than our invasions; it’s time to redirect investment in that direction. At the end of the day, the US will have to come to terms with the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. We’re spending 10 billion per month and losing a couple of soldiers per day to control one small nation of 25 million – this strategy cannot work on a wider scale. It’s time to invest in intelligence gathering, domestic security, and arms control. These are the realistic anti-terror strategies for the long run.