In the comments to ‘Sondheim‘ below, Vesicle Trafficker makes these accusations:
This is a very common argument in Pro-Bush Pro-Iraq war circles. The problem is, it is only partly true. If you substitute “In the decade or so” with “between January and September of 2001″, I think you’d be right.
I stand by my statement that it is a Pro-Bush Pro-Iraq war fantasy that the blame for 9/11 falls on Clinton for his alleged effete or ineffective response to global terrorism. 9/11 is not evidence for this, it is only evidence for Bush’s incompetence. It happened on his watch. He didn’t take Al Qaeda seriously. He was worried about stem cells and Saddam.
VT, your evidence for this would be exactly…what?
Because I’ve got a fairly substantial amount of evidence that points the other way.All the pieces were in place for “Operation Wedding Cake’ by July of 01; All Bush had done was increase the covert budget from $2B to $12.5 B in that time. The operational failures that had allowed the low-level operatives to come into the country were the same ones that let the bombers in the WTC I attack in.
Are you really suggesting that there was some strategy that Bush could have executed – one that doesn’t read like a plotline for a Tom Clancy book – that would have, in six months, unwound this plan?
I know a little bit about law enforcement, and have read a fair amount about intelligence. I honestly can’t imagine any policy change that could have interrupted this attack (and I’ll note that given bureaucratic inertia, absent some policy document that you can show that Bush ‘stood down’ the street-level antiterrorist forces, between January and July of 01 they were pretty much doing what they did between July and Dec 00). I’ll leave the door open to you suggest an alternative path that Bush could have followed, and I’ll reserve judgment until we hear what you would suggest.
Now I’ve proposed a theory back in March (I’m not the only one, and I’m not sure I can take credit for originating it) in which I posit:
And while in fact, the Clinton Administration was somewhat effective in following a ‘legalistic’ arrest and try strategy, it obviously hasn’t worked. I’ve always been annoyed at the righties who claimed that Clinton was snoozing at the switch and that the only U.S. response to terrorism was to lob a cruise missile into an aspirin plant.
The reality is that Clinton’s team was highly focussed on terrorism…but on terrorism as crime, as opposed to as an instrument of war. We focussed on identifying the actual perpetrators, and attempting to arrest them or cause their arrest.
This is pretty much the typical liberal response to 9/11. Send in SWAT, pull ‘em out in cuffs, and let’s sit back and watch the fun on Court TV.
I’ve been ambivalent about whether this is a good strategy conceptually, and looking at the history…in which we’re batting about .600 in arresting and trying Islamist terrorists…I have come to the realization that the fact is that it hasn’t worked. The level and intensity of terrorist actions increased, all the way through 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan.
And a part of what I have realized is that as long as states – particularly wealthy states – are willing to explicitly house terrorists and their infrastructure, or implicitly turn a blind eye to their recruitment and funding, we can’t use the kind of ‘police’ tactics that worked against Baader-Meinhof or the Red Army Faction. The Soviet Union and it’s proxies offered limited support to these terrorist gangs, but they didn’t have a national population to recruit from and bases and infrastructure that only a state can provide.
So unless we shock the states supporting terrorism into stopping, the problem will get worse. Note that it will probably get somewhat worse if we do…but that’s weather, and I’m worried about climate.
Now VT and others who disagree can argue – I’m obviously interested in arguing this, or I wouldn’t be putting this up as a post – but that implies a counterargument, or at least facts that counter the theory. I don’t see VT’s claims as rising to that level; I’m posting this so he (?) doesn’t feel like I’m neglecting a serious response to the specific claims that were made.
There is a philosophical ‘the buck stops here’ kind of point to make, but that’s not how I’m reading VT’s comment.
I’ll second the general point that’s been made that apportioning operational blame for the failure to stop the 9/11 attacks is something that can be readily shared between Clinton and Bush. Clinton had more time, but a) it happened on Bush’s watch, and b) he’s accountable for his failure to clean house and really shake up the bureaucracies in response to the failure.
I’m willing to grant that either party is roughly equal in competence in managing the bureaucracy (although I’ll also grant that this is subject to debate). I’d rather, first, be debating the doctrines they are going to instill into that bureaucracy, and here in my view Clinton comes up short.
It’s not clear he had any options, given the historic moment and political climate here and abroad. But I’ll take Bush’s doctrine to date over Clinton’s. My judgment is out on Kerry’s, until I actually figure out what his doctrine might be.