If you don’t stop problems when they’re small, you f— it up in historically catastrophic ways.
In the book “Against All Enemies” Richard Clark points out that in the 1990s the U.S. government thought that Al Qaida was just a tiny group of trouble makers. Then someone in the CIA with an accounting background calculated how much money it would take to do what they’ve done. It was something like $10 million a month. This was a big surprise! A small group of trouble makers could be funded out of someone’s pocket. $120 million a year requires something entirely different. It requiers a big organization, financial backers, infrastructure, and so on.
OMG, they realized, this is a f—ing army! This needs to be taken seriously!
At that point the strategy had to change. They did. In fact, Clinton tasked Al Gore with the responsibility of being the point person for the Al Qaida. Gore worked tirelessly to decimate and eliminate Al Qaida. They sent special ops missions against them. They event tried larger military actions, though the GOP politics stalled that.
Luckily in 2000 Al Gore was elected president. He made eliminating Al Qaida the top national priority. As president, he continued Clinton’s strategy and successfully eliminated Al Qaida. It’s a good thing he did this, too. Found in the wreckage was an elaborate plan to make a second attempt at blowing up the WTC buildings. This new plan was much more cunning and expanded. It included simultaneous attacks on both WTC towers (not just one), plus the Pentagon and the White House. If it had been successful the entire Whitehouse staff and possibly the President and Vice President himself would have been killed. I don’t want to be a scare monger, but if even 3/5th of that plan had been successful, it would have changed history as we know it.
Oh wait… Al Gore did win the 2000 election but somehow someone else entered the White House (I can’t remember the details of why. It must not be important.) The transition team packaged their anti Al Qaida plans for GW Bush. Sadly his advisors didn’t want to do anything that looked like a continuation of Clinton-era policies. Anything that smelled like a Clinton-era policy was either cancelled or they changed the name to give Bush cover.
This Al Qaida thing? It didn’t go in the “change name” pile. It went in the “cancel” pile. The new administration feared it might ruin their plan to negotiate a deal with the Taliban to build an oil pipeline across Afghanistan. They didn’t want to do anything that would upset their friends, the Taliban.
Therefore Al Qaida was ignored. It was even ignored when the national security director sent the Whitehouse a series of memos with increasing jaw-dropping titles like, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.".
The rest is history.