The 9/11 Commission Report is a pretty monumental piece of work, but I think one area that’s really lacking is analysis of the root causes for al-Qaeda. The report contains a few pages which discuss this in detail (p. 49-52) but in the way of background. The same degree of documentation and analysis that went into the rest of the report isn’t focused on root causes. And that’s too bad, in my view. For root causes, and how they’re evolving as the conflict matures, matter a great deal.
Root causes don’t matter if one’s goal in a war is to destroy an enemy, because one won’t have to live with them afterwards and forge a peaceful coexistence post-conflict. But anytime we expect to selectively engage, we need to understand what items beyond military victory are needed for a post-conflict return to coexistence. In plainer terms, we need to figure out how to be neighbors and do business once the fight’s over. And that necessitates dealing with root causes, not just attending to military victory.