Clinton, Bush, and 9/11

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.

The planning for the attack began in 1998 or 1999. The CIA plans several attacks against Bin Laden, but is shut down by higher-levels within the Clinton Administration.

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.

61 thoughts on “Clinton, Bush, and 9/11”

  1. AL-
    I like the way someone in Blogland put your argument: If a rat bites your child in your home, do you try to hunt down that rat and kill it, or put our traps and kill every rat you find?

  2. Sure. Us cats can’t get in otherwise to deal with the problem there.

    As a side benefit, the giant rolled-up newspaper bombs were pretty good at producing attitude adjustments among nearby pooches, and we think we can start breeding some nice Westie terriers on site soon. We like them much better than the German Shepherds and Bouviers that lived there before.

    There are a couple more condemned buildings we’re working on, though, since traps alone aren’t enough. Slum clearance is the order of the day, as the public health risks are too grave otherwise. Whether by persuasion, termites, dynamite, or more rolled up newspaper bombs, we plan to get this thing done.

    And land on our feet, as always….

  3. All I know is that terrorists never attacked the United States or any of its interests until George Bush was in office.

    Making shit up is easy: try it yourself!

  4. In all seriousness, the American people are to blame for failing to prevent September 11th. If you want someone to get mad at or to rail against, look in the mirror and go to town. Perhaps if the WTC Bombing or Khobar Towers or the Embassy Bombings or the Cole attack had spurred the same sense of purpose and determination seen after Sept. 11th, then maybe we would’ve been spared that horrific day.

    As it was, Americans were too busy with other things to really get fired up over stuff happening to their military or their people overseas. From my point of view, I’ve been a part of the terror war since 1993. You guys finally woke up and got involved a couple of years ago. It’s too bad it took 4 airliners, 3 buildings and the mass murder of 3000 people to rouse you from your slumber. I lay the blame for failing to prevent that tragedy squarely on your collective shoulders.

    Now that the blame game’s over with, perhaps we can get down to the business of killing terrorists.

  5. It’s a wee bit more complicated than “law enforcement,” which was discarded after 1998. But nobody is suggesting that we revert to law enforcement, regardless. The military and special ops are now fully engaged, and Kerry’s not going to pull them off that brief.

    But I think Stryker is right when he blames the American people. We just didn’t sit up and pay attention.

  6. A.L., You make the straw man “law enforcement only” in the form of Terrorism is a crime, rather as you view it, an act of war. Fareed Zakaria pointed out that terrorists don’t need states, and that Afghanistan was an instance of terrorists taking over a state – not the other way around. You thus make an assumption that I – and many other anti-this-war-now liberals – don’t agree with.

    You view this in the filter of a cold war mentality. Terrorists are the tools of states bent on world domination. I view this through the filter where the states are tools of the terrorists bent on forcing the downfall of the great Satan. From my point of view, the “state based strategy” is clearly fighting the “old war” and completely missing the nature of the enemy.

    Personally, I think the whole “Did Clinton do more or did Bush do enough” before 9/11 is a red herring. One that suits your particular world view where liberals are Saddam coddling terrorist appeasers.

    The real issue is about the Iraq war and whether that furthered our struggle against terrorism. The point is “what on earth did the Iraq war do to make us safer?”

    And here the overwhelming evidence screams out: “Not Much”. At best Iraq is a long term investment. The guy was evil, but the sanctions were clearly working precisely as they were designed. There was money skimming, but it was bounded and could be solved by merely auditing the god blessed system. And in an audit, there are rarely deaths of valiant accountants that happen on a daily basis.

    But other than the dim hope of eventually achieving a liberal democracy – or at least not a civil war breaking out until after the election – there’s really not much to show for the Iraq war. There’s a heck of a lot more terrorists in Iraq than there have been there cumulatively since the dawn of time. And as Rumsfeld says, we’re creating terrorists faster than we can kill them – when they kill themselves, that doesn’t count as a victory.

    And considering that Iraq is bone dry of WMDs (well, there is that botox vial they found) and considering that it looks like everyone (including the fabled Israeli intelligence) is wondering how they got fooled. . . And considering the absolute fraud Chalabi and his band of merry informants are. . .

    Well, let’s just say that one has to really scrape the bottom of the barrel to find anything positive that the Iraq war represents in the whole “war” on terror thing. You can put lipstick on the pig, but it’s still a pig.

    We now have everyone and their kid brother using the Iraq war as justification for a jihad against the great Satan (that would be us). Terrorists are recruiting up a storm using the war as its poster issue and we are facing an organization that is now completely decentralized and still effective despite our killing a heck of a lot of them. I won’t go through the whole laundry list of the downsides of the Iraq war, but they are many, numerous, and serious.

    So forget about who did and did not do what before 9/11. This is about the failure to follow through with Afghanistan and the diverting of lives, hundreds of billions of dollars, precious time, resources and untold political capital in the pursuit of a prize of dubious benefit – at best.

    I must say that managing to tie up 150K of troops takes considerable skill.

    Iraq is a boat anchor.

    And doing that after 9/11 – if indeed “everything changed” – is inexcusable and a strategic blunder the likes of which has never been seen in modern times.

  7. Hal, I don’t think the jury has come back with the verdict on Iraq yet. Take it from someone who has tended to view Iraq as a strategic error.

    On the one hand, the Iraqi economy really does seem to be picking up. And attacks on troops seem to have been reduced in favor of attacks on fellow Iraqis. I guess that’s a good sign. There are some here who believe that going into Iraq gave us more leverage with Pakistan, which in turn has helped us go after bin Laden and friends more effectively. I’m still not sure about that, but it’s something to consider. And there is circumstantial evidence that some things are happening in Syria as well. Some cite Libya as an example of the power of leverage in action. And then there is the interim constitution, which if unpopular among the Shiites, is better than nothing.

    Now, there are those, like Abu Ardvark, who make the case that the liberalization of the Arab world was temporarily interrupted by a clampdown in the runup to the second Gulf War, and a subsequent return to normal has been seen as a sign that Iraq is working. The pessimistic folks also view the Madrid bombings, the collapse of the Arab League talks, the Bush administration’s failure to put any teeth into the GMEI, and the inflammation of the Arab street in the wake of the Yassin killing as further evidence that things are messed up.

    The truth is, I don’t think we know yet how to sort out who is right. For my part, I’m trying to read as much as I can and watch what happens. And I think a little humility from everyone else wouldn’t be so bad.

  8. Hal,
    Iraq supported terrorists. That’s a fact. France, Russia, and Germany were undermining the sanctions and corrupted the oil for food program, leaving the US to take the blame for ‘killing’ the Iraqi children. The status quo over Iraq was failing and what little progress that was made only came AFTER the troops were sitting in Kuwait. The troops were tied ujp anyway.

    The three option were to 1) keep the sanctions and the no fly zones, 2) pack up and leave, or 3) invade.

    #1 was already failing, #2 would indeed have put the weasel in charge on the hen house, and #3 provided the benefits as documented here and all over the blogosphere, the least of which was the removal of the Saddam threat.

    OK Hal, which of the three options is your plan? Please address how it furthers the war on terror and detail how it is better than the Iraq invasion with respect to opportunity costs, e.g. what could we be doing that we aren’t doing now since we’re ‘tied down’ in Iraq?

  9. Out of curiousity, why do you go along with this “asprin factory” nonsense? Calling that pharmaceutical plant Clinton ordered destroyed an “asprin factory” has got to be one of the most effective examples of propaganda in history.

  10. My impression from reading The Age of Sacred Terror was that Clinton’s people “cared” a lot about terrorism, but they were somehow unwilling or unable to challenge the perogatives of various organizations and focus the power of the government. They deferred to the Joint Staff when they said it was impossible, they deferred to the CIA when the CIA didn’t want to risk assets, they deferred to State when State didn’t want to damage negotiations with the Taliban, they deferred to Congress and the various agencies (with other priorities) when it came to budgeting matters. There was a very real sense of give-and-take, rather than directed purpose. You had NSC-level staffers pulling teeth on every little thing, instead of coordinating a large scale enterprise.

    I’m inclined to call that a failure of leadership, either due to lack of spirit or sheer incompetence in bureaucratic management, but others may differ.

  11. “If you’re Bush, you bomb the dog pound.”

    Hah, good one!

    Reminds me of that other fuckup, moron president, FDR. We get attacked by the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean and what does he do? He invades Morocco! Sheesh.

  12. Stryker,
    You are wrong about terrorists never striking USA soil untill Sept. 11. I’m assuming you mean Islamic terrorists by the way. There has been at least three direct atacks by Al Queada on USA soil. The first two were the two Embassy bombings. Embassy grounds are considered the territory of the country they represent. Any attack on an embassy can be considered an act of war. We could have counter attack Iran after it seized our embassy after the Shah fell. The other attack on USA soil was the Cole. Attacking an American warship is the same as attacking America itself, Remember the Maine?

  13. praktike:

    Hal, I don’t think the jury has come back with the verdict on Iraq yet. Take it from someone who has tended to view Iraq as a strategic error.

    Your post above is absolutely one of the best you’ve ever produced (and I’ve liked a lot of what you’ve had to say).

    Although a supporter of the WoT I am now and always have been a skeptic on the war in Iraq. But things have gone much better there than I expected. The day ain’t over yet, gang.


    Fareed Zakaria pointed out that terrorists don’t need states, and that Afghanistan was an instance of terrorists taking over a state – not the other way around.

    You’re right, terrorists don’t need states but law enforcement does. And there are lots of ways to influence states: diplomacy, suasion, bribery, and naked force among others and I’d support the use of all of the above depending on circumstances. My main worry is that we’re being way too patient. Time is not on our side.

    Second, you really need to address Lurker’s points:

    The three option were to 1) keep the sanctions and the no fly zones, 2) pack up and leave, or 3) invade.

    #1 was already failing, #2 would indeed have put the weasel in charge on the hen house, and #3 provided the benefits as documented here and all over the blogosphere, the least of which was the removal of the Saddam threat.

    OK Hal, which of the three options is your plan?

    There appears to be evidence that the French wanted to abandon sanctions before the war. Do you have any evidence that they could have been persuaded otherwise? IMO, this is the problem that John Kerry has. Either he should produce some evidence that sanctions could have been maintained or he has to abandon the notion that he could have done better.

  14. Lurker: As I said, the oil for food problem was bounded and trivially solved by an audit – also, clearly a criminal issue. We get blamed for a lot of things, so being blamed for “killing Iraqi children” is hardly a cause for war. The status quo was working, as Dr. Kay has painstakingly verified (although we’re spending another billion to make absolutely sure).

    So instead of making sure the job was done in Afghanistan and cleaning up the whole Al Qaeda crew, we tromped off to open another front for dubious tangible benefits.

    What could we be doing with the resources spent in this boondoggle? I don’t know. . . how about funding all the work we need to do to shore up homeland security? How about putting people to work shoring up our infrastructure and upgrading our homeland defenses? Maybe we could have used the scarce resources represented by the special forces tracking down Al Qaeda in Pakistan rather than tracking down that hobo in a spider hole. Maybe all those Arabic speakers, also in short supply, could have been tracking down the jerks who bombed Spain – you know, the one we had no clue about.

    We could have spent 180 billion dollars in Afghanistan, turning that state into a flower of liberal democracy. Clearly Afghanistan is just as good as Iraq as far as the whole “reverse domino” theory goes. We could have spent all the effort that’s been going into formulating the Iraqi constitution into getting one for Afghanistan. And we’d be two years along in the effort to boot.

    It’s really hard to figure out all that “could have been done” and enumerating them, as it’s an alternate future. The one we’re stuck with now is an Iraq of seemingly trivial strategic value, no WMDs. All for an enormous cost. Surely with a bit of thought combined with less conspiracy theory and cold war mentality one could come up with better uses of this time, money, lives and diplomatic capital.

  15. Dave: I’m more than willing to concede your point about being too patient and such. But it seems wise to never use an action when the mere threat of the action will suffice.

    And my point is that time really isn’t on our side. We’ve just wasted 2 years for what? And the cost? If time is not on our side then we really just screwed the pooch.

    It’s a matter of priorities. It’s clear the priority was war, not resolution of the problem in the most favorable terms to our country. We solved the problem by gaining an occupation that no one wants to help out with, tying up 100K+ of troops for god only knows how long, a soldier dying a day, infiltration by terrorists, and a strong possibility of civil war and/or another Islamic state.

    I mean, how stupid do you have to be to end up in this condition? It’s a screw up of epic proportions.

    Makes the whole sanctions problem seem like a nice relaxing day on the beach by comparison.

  16. Wow, amazing what we’re willing to do to enforce an audit.

    How about tracking down and eliminating Al Qaeda? F*ck this audit crap and oil for food bitching. It’s the focusing on this crap that’s precisely the issue. What on god’s green earth does any of it have to do with dealing with terrorism?

    Cost and benefit. Conservatives used to wag their fingers at all the environmentalists, lecturing them about it.

  17. Hal:
    Who was going to perform the audits? How were we even going to find out that audits were needed? The only reason we know about the oil-for-food corruption is directly due to the invasion. Should we add this item to the pro-invasion list?

    Besides, the sanctions were already collapsing , due primarily to out ‘allies’. Audit’s are no good without an effexctive sanctions regime. What was your plan to keep France, Germany, & Russia from undermining the sanctions?

    WRT to Afganistan, would sending in a larger force really help? It seems like the terrorist threat from Afganistan proper has been contained, and the troops we do have there are constantly harassing the remnants. A larger force in Afganistan would only serve to a arouse their fears of invasion and dominance. We’re playing by Afgan rules, much like their own warlords do. Sorry. You have not made your case that more resources are needed for Afganistan.

    I’ll grant you that we may not be spending enough on homeland (I HATE that name) security. Hopefully, a lot this is classified information. I don’t think Iraq should be blamed entirely for any lack of funding, maybe we should blame that useless Medicare bill. That’s a pretty chunk of chnage.

    Yes you are right. There’s always other uses for our resouces. It’s a matter of priorities. How much did the clean up of 9-11 cost? What is the economic impact of 3000 deaths? How much would it cost to deal with a clandestine nuclear strike?

    In my opinion, Iraq needed doing during GW1 and definitely before 9-11. Let’s turn this question around. What would it have taken for you to support the invasion of Iraq? Obviously, we can’t do if he’s just planning or actively developing nuclear weapons or actively developing nuclear weapons (everyone thoought he was doing this before, regardless of what we have found AFTER the invasion).

    So, I guess your requirement would be the confirmed development of nuclear weapons before and invasion can be justified. Is that right? We should only invade pariah states like Iraq during that brief window, when they are confirmed to have nuclear weapons, but before they can actually use them? That’s policy on a knifes edge right there. An assumes pewrfect knowledge to boot. Those of us in the real world have to deal with uncertainties and probabilities. The success of this scenario seems rather bleak.

    But wait, maybe you take France’s position and say that an invasion can never be justified. What is it? What could have justified the Iraq invasion? What level of proof would it have taken? At least let us know if we’re all wasting our breath on someone that can’t be convinced. Ever.

  18. Hal,

    For $180 billion in Afghanistan, which has an annual GDP of about $19 billion, you could buy an awful lot of hyperinflation and corruption.

    Now, I’d feel better about Afghanistan if we had taken out a few extra warlords in Herat, cracked down on the heroin trade, and finished some more highways, but I there’s no way on Allah’s green Earth that Afghanistan was going to turn into the “flower of democracy.” No more terrorist training camps, running water, electricity, and a new mayor of Kabul are about as much as we’re going to get in the near term.

  19. Hal, sorry I wasn’t clear when I mentioned FASB. When nations – who control borders, documents, and so on – don’t want to play, doing police work is kinda difficult.

    How do you propose the ‘police’ get access to terrorists who are housed in Iraq, (or, now, Iran) and the national governments don’t want to cooperate – how do you propose that we do it?

    I’d love to get some ideas on how we’re supposed to find, and then arrest (or even kill) AQ operatives when we can’t put people on the ground. If you’ve got some ideas on that (and note that the Predator in Yemen was flying with the approval of the national government), I’d suggest that you let us all in on the secret.

    Remember that the LAPD has a hard enough time finding 18th Street shooters here in Pico-Union, and in theory, we control those streets.


  20. The bombing of the USS Cole came up repeatedly in the 9/11 hearings but to my astonishment nothing’s been said or written anywhere about the crucial FBI investigation into the attack. Instead, the FBI was dismissed from having any role during the hearings since, according to Clarke, they had totally dropped the ball on Islamic terrorism. False! But the true story hardly flatters the FBI either.

    There are two key figures who warrant the committee’s attention, and whose drama would prove embarrassing to both administrations, as wells as the FBI. Hmm, maybe their absence isn’t so surprising after all?

    John O’Neill led the Cole investigation for the FBI, having been the director of counterterrorism for the bureau’s New York office. He investigated the bombings of the World Trade Centre in ’93, a US base in Saudi Arabia in ’96, the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam in ’98, as well as the Cole in ’00.

    The other figure in the story is Clinton’s US ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, who later served as Bush’s first Baghdad “governor” (for three weeks before being mysteriously recalled).

    Under Clinton, Bodine did everything imaginable to frustrate O’Neill and his team, including finally barring O’Neill from reentering Yemen to check up on his agents. The degree of her obstructionism in that investigation is truly staggering.

    Frustrated with two administrations and with his superiors at the bureau, O’Neill finally resigned in Aug. 2001 taking a job as chief of security for the World Trade Center. The day after he told a friend that he could sense al-Queda was going to hit the buildings soon, O’Neill was killed at the WTC on 9/11/01.

    Frontline (PBS) ran an excellent documentary on O’Neill’s saga late in 2002:

    The other best telling of this story appeared in print in a Jan. 2002 New Yorker:

    There are many quotes at both of these addresses to refute Clarke’s testimony, but no mention of the story anywhere. It’s unbelievable – Google it.

    The blogs have totally dropped the ball on this, and I take that as a bad sign.

  21. There is, in fact, no credible evidence that Iraq had operational ties to Al-Qaeda. If there was you can sure the Bush administration would be shouting it from the rooftops, rather than using Rice as a human shield to protect the president from Clarke.

    The sanctions had worked and it was, in fact, time to stop them. In fact they worked way too damn well – the reason the Iraq economy is showing some signs of pickup is simply because they are no longer cut off from the world economy and struggling under sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and proved to the muslim world that the US didn’t care about muslim deaths.

    There is and was no good case for invading Iraq. They were not a threat to anyone (if you believe they were make a specific case for who they threatened), they were not supporting Al-Qaeda and Saddam, while a “bad man”(tm) is not worse than a dozen other bastards who don’t happen to be sitting on or next to a lot of oil. All invading has done is tie up piles of US troops, give Al-Qaeda the propaganda point they were looking for, allow US troops to be killed (proving another Al-Qaeda point), overthrow a secular dictator whom Al-Qaeda hated and allow the removal of troops from Saudi Arabia (another Al-Qaeda win although I agree with it).

    Meanwhile the outcome in Iraq is still up in the air – more attacks on other Iraqis as opposed to Americans tends to indicate that they are jockeying for who will rule post-withdrawal Iraq. And right now, the smart money would be on an Islamic democracy or Iraq fracturing. Neither of which is a particularly good outcome for the US.

    Finally the US set a really bad precedent. Trust me the lesson learned wasn’t “if you have WMD’s we’ll invade you”. The lesson learned was “if you don’t have nukes, we’ll invade you – but if you do have them, like North Korea, we’ll talk tough but do nothing.”

  22. I think the real people to blame are the people in the U.S. Government who were (a) experts on Afghanistan and (b) recommended that we negotiate with the Taliban as the means of shutting down Al Qaeda’s terror training camps.

    This strategy was doomed to fail and our experts should have known it would fail. We know now that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were joined at the hip. There was no chance of the Taliban shutting down Al Qaeda. But because there were elements in U.S. State Department (and in C.I.A.?) who talked about working working with the Taliban Clinton dithered instead of doing something that might have actually worked.

    This is largely what I said on my blog.

  23. Hal,

    Have you ever really looked at a map of Afghanistan? Given the geo-political situation on Sept.12, 2001 and looking at the map can you suggest any possible plan that could contain al Qaeda within the borders of Afghanistan?

    Two and a half years on we still go into Pakistan with great caution and into Iran even more quietly. Or would you propose armed incursion into Iran and Pakistan on the basis of “hot pursuit”?

    Your argument concerning better use of military resources does not reflect the minimal understanding of force utility and capability necessary for reasonable debate. You really don’t have to be in the military to realize that not only is their no job suitable for the 4ID in Afghanistan (as a cohesive unit) there is also no reasonable way for them to get there (although I suppose they could drive across southern Iran – from Iraq).

    Ask Stryker if he could fly them in.

  24. Ian,
    Saddam paid bounties so terrorists would attack Israeli civilians. So, there’s a link to terrorism and a threatened country in one sentence.

    Let’s see. Saddam also posed a threat to his own Kurdish, Shite, and marsh Arab citizens. Do they count for anything?

    He had also issued threats to the U.S. on many ocassions. Should we take himk at his word? Or should we have continued to ignore him like we did bin Laeden for so many years?

    I’d also like to turn this around and ask you like I did hal, What would you require in the form of proof or argument in order for you to support the invasion of Iraq? Just let us know whjat it would take. Are we wasting time trying to convince you? Or is there some small chance that you could’ve possible supported an invasion?

    I’ll tell you the first thing it would have taken for me to say an invasion was not justified:
    Saddam removed from power and replaced by a governmanet guranteed not to support terrorists or pursue WMD. He’s ruthless, power mad, and ultimately undeterrable. Once a country has harbored and aided terrorists, they are tainted.

    Which BTW, is way N. Korea crisis still has a chance of resolution. As far as I know, there’s never been any mention of them supporting terrorists. At least if you don’t count their wacky cross border excursions with S. Korea.

  25. Well, I’m not a pilot, but I think I could fly them in. Landing’s the big trouble, though Army guys love jumping out of perfectly good aircraft anyway.

    We are flying all kinds of stuff into Kandahar and Bagram, but the mountainous terrain that the Taliban and Al Queda operate in these days isn’t suitable for tanks and stuff (from what I gather talking to other people.)

    I do think we could get the 4th ID into Afghanistan, if we used all of our airlift to concentrate on it. Each C-5 can carry two tanks and each 17 can carry 1. 130’s can do Humvees and support equipment, as well as KC-10’s, if they’re not being used for A/R’s. If they’re not carrying tanks, C-5’s can carry several helicopters or support equipment, along with 75 troops upstairs at the same time. 141’s can carry 150 people at a time, but I’m unsure at a 17’s capacity. They can do something similar to a P-5 150 config as a 141, but I’m sure they can carry more than 150 with red seats and centerlines.

    I think we could airlift the entire 4th ID in a week, maybe a week and a half. But that’s with all available AMC assets tasked for the job. The show-stoppers would be A/R capability (which is our biggest problem in any scenario) and MC rates of the aircraft.

  26. Hal:

    Terrorists need safe zones: areas where they can train recruits, stockpile supplies and money, and recover between operations, where their opponents can’t or won’t go and attack them. Traditionally, there are three ways to get a sanctuary: sheltered by distance, sheltered by a populace, or sheltered by a government.

    Sheltered by distance is rapidly becoming impossible; there are very few places where it is physically possible for a terrorist to go that his enemies can’t follow. The classic example used to be the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia: the tribes knew how to survive there, but it was difficult to impossible for everyone else. Nowadays, with GPS for navigation and IR spy satellites to spot concentrations of people giving off heat, if we wanted to kill every person there, it could be done.

    Sheltered by a populace is the classic Maoist description of the people as the water in which guerillas swim. Even though you are nominally within the territory of a state which is looking for you, you can remain hidden because the people won’t help your opponents. Classic example: catching Chinese organized crime or the Mafia. Another example is that infamous Zaqawri memo a couple months back, where he described how it would be impossible to operate in Iraq if the Iraqi police began operating against them, because they would lose their protective coloration from “they all look alike”.

    Sheltered by a state is the last way for terrorists to gain sanctuary. The best example is what happened in Vietnam: As long as the VC could get supplies from North Vietnam, an area which the US and its’ ally would bomb but not invade, and as long as North Vietnam could get their supplies from Red China and the Soviets, who weren’t even going to be bombed, it was very difficult to keep them from operating. Incidentally, the US, thru Pakistan, returned the favor in Afghanistan in the ’80s. In the current conflict, Afghanistan (under the Taliban) was such a sanctuary. So was Iraq. As evidence, look at the number of terrorists who were in Iraq for medical treatment; look at where several participants from the ’93 bombing ended up; look at Saddam’s paying lots of money to terrorists in Arafatistan. Look at the Iraqi files showing contacts.

    And last of all, the reason we went to Iraq: WE COULD. Afghanistan was covered by hot pursuit; that’s where we went first. After that, if we want to take down the sanctuaries, Iraq was a logical next choice because we had a state of existing war (GW1 was only a cease fire), we had all the UN resolutions, and Iraq had terrain that our military was better suited for (unlike Afghanistan) and wasn’t near anyone we cared about avoiding damage to (unlike, say, NK, Ian, who can bombard Seoul to dust before we can do anything about it). Finally, it would give us a centrally located base (even better than Saudi). It would give us an oil supply to replace either Iran or Saudi Arabia’s, when we went after them. Note that oil wasn’t for us, but rather for our allies like Japan, who get a much higher percentage of their oil from the Middle East than we do.

    In short, Hal, Ian, anyone who understands basic strategy and tactics knows why we went to Iraq. You?

  27. Here is a partial summary of the interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (via TCP). Interesting to note where the al Qaeda leaders ran to and where they were captured.

    Playing whack a mullah in Afghanistan just won’t finish the job.

  28. Stryker,

    As soon as I hit post I knew I houldn’t have mentioned asking you :). Ten days? Ahem. OK but my main point stands (and you acknowledged it). A heavy armor division has an extradorinarily limited function in mountainous terrain. That’s why we’re using rotary wing to move people around for the most part. The mountain roads are just too susceptible to ambush.

  29. Rick,

    That’s a bit of a snark, right?

    Look, I’ve seen people who I respect, on BOTH sides of the debate of whether it was a good thing or not to go to Iraq.

    There are former generals such as Shinseki and Clark (not the counterterrorism guy!), a couple of former Reagan Generals, people like Brent Scowcroft, etc.

    These people CLEARLY are people who “who understands basic strategy and tactics knows why we went to Iraq” – and guess what? They DISAGREE with you. So , while you may be right, appeal to higher knowledge won’t work, in this case. It’s a shortcut debating tactic, and you’ll have to work harder than that (and I’m looking forward to it, as well.)

  30. Saddam paid bounties so terrorists would attack Israeli civilians.

    I think you have the reasoning backwards. The Palestinian factions haven’t, frankly, had to offer Iraqi money to recruit suicide bombers. (Nor the Saudi money that they continue to receive for this purpose.) My guess is that Saddam gave money to these terrorists so that some of their popularity (even glory, sick as that is) would rub off on him, and improve his stature in the eyes of his own wretched subjects and the Arab world at large. Sort of like the Mafia giving big money to a charity.

    I wonder if a fairly-elected government in Iraq would resume these dishonoraria? It doesn’t sound like Ayatollah Sistani has a problem with that. That’s what we leave Viceroy Brenner and those bases in place, as a veto, I suppose.

  31. For $180 billion in Afghanistan, which has an annual GDP of about $19 billion, you could buy an awful lot of hyperinflation and corruption.

    When we do exactly that in Iraq (GDP < $60 billion), it’s called “the economy is picking up”. I do agree, though, that even $180 billion would not Afghanistan a flower of democracy make. Jordan, on the other hand…. (GDP circa $10 billion, relatively educated, and some possibility of a constitutional monarch).

  32. Hal,

    > Clearly Afghanistan is just as good as Iraq as far as the whole “reverse domino” theory goes.

    Clearly you know little about the comparative situation between the two countries, if you think that Afghanistan (which wasn’t all that far from the kind of tribal based society depicted by Kipling) was just as good as Iraq, which was the most secular of the Arab republics and had had a fairly substantial middle class before Sadaam got too ruthless.


    The other people you mention are fine by me as authorities, but Scowcroft? Are you kidding? Wasn’t he one of the scared-spitless-by-the-end-of-the-Soviet Union gang that surrounded (and greviously mis-served) Bush I?

  33. So if I understand the Left-Liberal argument that the Clinton admin focused on Osama and Al-Qaeda as an INTERNATIONAL CRIME, NOT FOR WAR, then why did BILL THE GREAT, aka DARTH STAINIOUS, aka MAGNUS DEMOCRATUS REPUBLICANUS CLINTONIUS, allegedly work to attain STRONGER UN-BASED RESOLUTIONS AGAINST SADDAM due to alleged new media-reported evidence that UNMOVIC-stalling Saddam may have had links to Osama and international Islamic terror groups. Nothing is more laughable than the Failed Left trying to prove Clinton was for real – you know Bill, the ex-POTUS, Democrat-criticized
    “Republican/Republicanist”, registered Democrat and the Democrats antithetical “Republican” answer to Reaganism and Reagan-Bush 1, whom post-Florida 2000 now all but formally disavows ANY responsibility for the 1990’s “Clinton economy”, “Clinton surplus” and “CLinton balanced budget”! SO FAR THE ONLY REAL THING THE DEMLIBS CAN LEGITIMATELY CLAIM ABOUT BILL IS THAT HE WAS A REGISTERED DEMOCRAT, OR WAS HE [HA-HA]???We’re gettin’ a’closer to 1998, boyz, the new Left-centric REVISIONIST year for when the Tanzania and Kenyan Bombings formally occurred, no longer 1996 or even 1997 – read, “POTUS Bill had a plan, a really really REALLY R-E-A-L-L-Y brilliant plan, but gosh darn it, gee whiz Mr. Wilson and John Wayne, just didn’t have the time or knowledge or proper intel [or the condoms???] to implement it”, subread “SHHHHHHHHHHHH,

  34. And as for NORTH KOREA and IRAN, etal. being the alleged “greater threat” than Iraq, why is it that after decades of the American Left supporting the concept of wilful and deliberate NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION, espec as where concerns the wilful nuclearizing of states with a Leftist government andor an anti-American/Western agenda, IS CONSTRAINING NON-ISLAMIST NORTH KOREA SUDDENLY, WEIRDLY, AND MYSTERIOUSLY AN ISSUE BY THE LEFT! As long as Cold War Moscow andor Beijing dominated the lessor Communist states, the Left had no problem demanding the “peaceful” or “stabilizing” nuclearization of these predom totalitarian minor Commie or pro-Commie states at the unilateral, prohibitive expense of non- or anti-Leftist, non-or anti-totalitarian, pro-democracy world states! GET REAL, THE LEFT
    WAS ANTI-SOVIET ONLY TO THE EXTENT IT DIDN’T WANT COMMUNIST SOCIALISM MILITARILY DESTROYED, SINCE COMMUNISM AND SOCIALIST SUBSIDISM/WELFARISM BY DEFINITION IS PRO-MODERNITY, IN THEORY IF NOT PRACTICE OR OUTCOME, AND THE LEFT ISN’T AFRAID OF BUSH AS MUCH AS IT WANTS BUSH TO WAGE WAR -ITS COUNTING ON NUCLEAR-ARMED RUSSIA AND CHINA, PLUS NATURAL AMERICAN-SPECIFIC ISOLATIONISM, TO DOMESTICALLY AND GEOPOLITICALLY/MILPOL CONSTRAIN BUSH AND THE GOP-RIGHT, WHILE THE CLINTONS INTERNALLY WORK TO DESTABILIZE AND PC INDUCE DOMESTIC, ANTI-SOVEREIGN, ANTI-AMERICAN, “AMERICAN” SOCIALISM AND SOCIALISM-BASED, PRO-OWG POLITICAL UNITARIANISM! The Asian Command Left is using the American Left to help kill free America in the pan-global name of SAVING [FAILED] LEFTISM-SOCIALISM-LIBERALISM – when America is fully and finally discredited and suborned under Communist-controlled Socialism, it will then purge or kill any domestic element deemed a threat to ASIAN – and international COMMUNIST RULE! The only good news for patriotic Americans is that whereas the former USSR and China united to kill free America, inevitably as Socialist entities Russia and China, etal the SOcilaist globe, MUST WAR ON EACH OTHER FOR “GREAT STATE/POWER” CONTROL OF SCARCE RESOURCES – as indicated in PRAVDA and other RUSSIAN Net sources, Russia understands this as it is seeking to develop Russia-centric modern military capabilities to counter FIGHTING AGAINST CHINESE FORCES ON ITS OWN SOIL, as disguised by the Putin Government’s proclamation of desiring national protection against ANY DE FACTO US-CHINESE MILFORS FIGHTING ON RUSSIAN SOIL – For now Russia wants Americans and the world to believe Bush and America is so imperialistic, vain, and bellicose as to possibly desire expanding the WOT to Russia itself, or against Russia-China, but in reality Putin is prepping against the day RUSSIAN COMMUNIST MUST FIGHT CHINESE COMMUNIST FOR CONTROL OF EURASIA AND THE VITAL RESOURCES OF THE POST-AMERICAN, POST-WESTERN, COMMUNIST-SOCIALIST WORLD! China knows this as well – Russia and China are willing to wage MAD global nuclear war iff America cannot be controlled, WHAT THEY AND THE CLINTONS WANT TO KNOW ARE AMERICANS WILLING TO FIGHT AND DIE!

  35. Andrew: I think you have the reasoning backwards. The Palestinian factions haven’t, frankly, had to offer Iraqi money to recruit suicide bombers.

    The loss of Saddam may be having more of an effect than you know. The Palistinians are now resorting to convincing mentally handicapped children to become suicide bombers. What happened to the long lines of martyrs waiting to blow themsleves up?

    Besides, I brought this up to as an exmaple to show that Saddam did support terrorists. It’s obvious that offering a bounty to the families of suicide bombers is supporting terrorism. That was my original point of making that statement.

  36. Lurker, the Palestinians had no problem with finding suicide bombers for months after the fall of Saddam. I’d suggest that the recent improvements in Israel’s security situation (all quite relative) have more to do with the Wall (which, in principle, I reluctantly support).

  37. Hal – Terrorists don’t need states?

    Government-controlled Saudi charities contribute billions to al Qaeda & other Islamist paramilitary operation. They fund the madrassas whose sole goal is to provide foot soldiers for the Islamist wars in Chechnya, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iraq, Israel, Uzbekistan, Thailand, the Sudan, etc. The goal of these wars is to establish a pan-Islamic state.

    What would happen to the billion dollar terrorism industry if oil-rich terror supporting governments ceased to exist? Could terrorists survive by selling hash, heroin and dates? Terrorists need those states to survive.

    Iraq wasn’t the biggest supporter of terrorism, and it might have been a better idea to directly target the larger terror supporting states, but your suggestion of shoring up homeland security is pointless. We’re already doing that. Should we do more and turn America into a protectionist panic room?

    We should have ‘spent 180 billion dollars in Afghanistan, turning that state into a flower of liberal democracy.’? How much do you know about Afghanistan? Do you remember that saying ‘we can’t bomb them into the stone age, they’re already there?’ It’s a tribal society. When efforts are made to get women to start their own businesses in Afghanistan, they start a business sewing burkas. It would take 180 billion dollars just to bring that state up to the Renaissance.

  38. JC,

    I think you may have conflated SDN and my posts in your reply concerning snarkiness.

    WRT Shinseki – isn’t he the fellow that felt 500,000 troops would be necessary to maintain order in Iraq? Very much a Powell doctrine old army type. And dear Wesley is the fellow that either wants 1)No troops – do it all by air or 2)Take on the Russians for beating us to the airport.

    Actually both gens had excellent and honourable careers – I just point to the fact that neither walks on water.

    My argument WRT Hal’s points concerning chasing al Qaeda being primary and Iraq as being secondary is that he seriously misunderstands the resource requirements involved. Regular army divisions have a very low utility in chasing small bands through the mountains. Airborne, Rangers, the 10th Mountain and Special Forces are the appropriate means of achieving the end of hunting terrorists in that type of terrain.

    As to Iraq, a look at the collapse of the recently planned Arab summit is useful as is consideration of what might have prompted Qadaffi’s public profession of epiphany. Some thought could be given to Assad’s current negotiations through Australian channels in an attempt find out what sort of conduct the US would find minimally satisfactory. I have yet to see a persuasive argument that what is occuring regarding Libya and Syria would have occurred absent our actions in Iraq.

    BTW – I concur with Stryker 1000% concerning responsibility for the WTC attacks. Look in the mirror to find the culprit.

  39. I’m interested in the subtext of the discussion more than the real subject, which is so dull it hurts my brain.

    As Stryker said, you’re playing a blame game. Who cares who is to blame, when it comes down to ignorance? Did either Bush or Clinton ask to be attacked? Did they want to be attacked? They are probably both basically decent people, just like everybody else. I guess it’s just the case of blaming whomever is in charge.

    But the amusing part is trying to figure out how much is about blame, how much is about party politics, and how much is being afraid to admit that you don’t know how to stop future attacks and you’re all scared as hell that you or someone that you know might be next.

    And the administration doesn’t know a hell of a lot more than you.

    I agree with Stryker’s first point (blame is a waste of time), but the idea that killing terrorists will stop terror is a joke. Terrorists kill themselves. Terrorists are what results from committing acts of terror, not the other way around. Anger and desperation are the cause of terror. How many angry, desperate people are there in the world? Are you going to kill all of them?

  40. Man, you guys are magnifying any benefit – no matter how dubious, obscure, or ex post facto – into a major victory.

    You people consistently show that you have no concept of triage, or how to prioritize action. I wouldn’t hire you in my business as an employee without a hell of a lot of supervision. Essentially, I’d find you spending all my money going after the 7th or 8th tier competitors, spending all my money on such idiotic pursuits because it “was cool” and tickled your “man of action” fantasies.

    Insanity. Based on a wacky ideology, conspiracy theories and out moded thinking.

    You got your action for action’s sake. And that’s all it was. Now we have a boat anchor locking our troops in for at least a decade in a situation that is far worse than what we had before we all started. We’ve wasted 2 years, hundreds of billions of dollars, over 500 lives and god only knows what else.

    Yea, there were benefits. But you guys simply can’t add. 1 + (-10,000) = -9999. It does not equal +1.

    You focus on the +1 and miss the -10,000. That’s insanity and a clear demonstration of strategic incompetence.

    Thanks, guys. We’ll be enjoying this blunder for decades.

  41. Richard Swan,

    learn the difference between “equals” and “is equivalent to”. Because you obviously don’t know the difference, and it’s actually very important. Stryker meant the places where civilians live, the actual real territories of the U.S., and you know he meant it, I bet.

  42. Brett Belmore,

    You get hyperbolic excess award for this thread and your claim that “Calling that pharmaceutical plant Clinton ordered destroyed an “asprin factory” has got to be one of the most effective examples of propaganda in history.”

    I’m sure no one can think of a dozen examples off the tops of their heads that make that statement INVALID.

  43. I am concerned with the attempt to use long term results to judge the effectiveness of the war on Iraq. If you start using a variable time scale to judge wars, you will find that anyone can give credit for any future act to any war that came before it, within the bounds of your audience to swallow it.

    War has to be judged on immediate strategic goals for the judgement to mean anything, because __you can’t predict long term effects__. The only way to measure a war’s effectiveness is to judge it by the goals it was quantitatively meant to produce. In which case, the war in Iraq was 50% successful:

    1. de-throne Saddam — check
    2. find weapons of mass destruction — ooops
    3. establish democracy — please! not a strategic objective, so it does not count

    The long term effects on terrorism are a pointless wild goose chase with regard to Iraq. If, on the other hand, there was some kind of hard evidence that resources were flowing from Saddam (or anyone else) to terrorists X, Y and/or Z, and that the successful invasion and takeover stopped that flow and it was not immediately renewed from other channels, then I’d accept that the war achieved another measureable aim in the short term. If that was unintentional, it’s called LUCK, not strategy.

    If, as others have pointed out, Saddam was being made an example of, that’s not war as much as it is global politics, which is all a game of chance and numbers anyway.

    But I guess that’s what everyone is really saying. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many good theoretical bases for determining how to play out global political scenarios, since there are simply too many variables. So it’s just a game, and you may as well play the game by not killing tens or hundreds of thousands of people, in my opinion. Just hire better assassins.

  44. Hal, and similarly, I wouldn’t hire your company or buy a product form it unless you could back up hyperbolic spin with fact.

    You’ve made a set of assertions, which do not equal facts, and you haven’t built a logical chain from generally available facts to support your conclusions – which you hold with the certainty of a drowing man holding a rope.

    So can I suggest two alternative paths for your arguments?

    a) Less certainty, and more willingness to – with the rest of those participating in the discussion – to explore and try and arrive at conclusions, as opposed to starting at them?

    b) enough facts combined with logical argument to lead the rest of us support your certainty?


  45. Ian Welsh,

    Good point about Korea. But then, by having nukes, maybe Korea is one of the “real players” or whatever, while Saddam and other guys are just getting too big for their britches? It has been argued before (by people who know something, unlike me) that much of global politics is akin to a pissing contest.

    You can’t make an example of a fellow senior, even if he is a lunatic.

  46. Brent – “Terrorists kill themselves.”??

    Have bin Laden and Mullah Omar killed themselves? In fact, most terrorists pick up their skirts and run away when death approaches.

    “Terrorists are what results from committing acts of terror, not the other way around. Anger and desperation are the cause of terror.”

    On 9/11, wealthy Islamists, financed by wealthy Saudis, murdered thousands of Americans in an unprovoked act of war. What did we do to make those desperate, wealthy men so angry? What acts of terror did we commit against those Saudis to make them hate us so much?

    “How many angry, desperate people are there in the world? Are you going to kill all of them?”

    Terrorists don’t spontaneously generate, it takes money and a philosophy of hate to grow them. You can destroy some by dismantling their organization and their source of cash. Stryker knows more about how to efficiently get rid of the rest of them.

  47. Brent,
    What cut-off date should we use, after which we can’t attribute positive consequences to the war? Will you accept the same date for negative consequences? This has to work both ways.

    Actually, if you’d care to examine the records, in the Blogosphere and other places, I think you see that almost all of the positive events that are transpiring (Libya, Syria, etc.) where predicted as reasons (putting pressure on other Arab totalitarian regimes) before the invasion. In fact, if you do go examine the record, you’ll see that those predicting these positive outcomes were much more right than those predicting negative outcomes (genocide, 100’s of 1000’s dead, millions of refugees, the rise of the mythical Arab street, blah, blah, blah.

    The cost/benefit analysis may still be something to argue about. But the current facts say that the plan is working so far. So, if we say that today is the cut off date for assessing consequences, you lose.

  48. Well, Col. Qadaffi has been trying to get out of the economic sanctions from even before 9/11. Look at his cooperation (so to speak) on Lockerbie, back as far as the Clinton Administration. Syria also has been experiencing an up-and-down relationship with the West that started with false hopes of significant liberalization on the death of the elder Assad. I think it’s possible that these processes were intensified by the Iraq War, which should be credited as a side benefit, but no more important than changes in the oil economy and in demographics.

    So far, the positive predictors were correct on the capture of Baghdad with relatively few American casualties. They have been totally wrong, already, on the duration and expense of the American Occupation. (30K troops by 12/03, $1.7 billion total to the US taxpayer for reconstruction.) They were, of course, totally wrong about the exigence of the Iraqi WMD threat. The pro-American pro-Israeli state built around Ahmad Charlatan Chalabi’s INC and (chimerical) internal resistance movement looks less likely than a nasty, multi-way civil war as soon as we withdraw enough troops to make it technically feasible. I don’t think I’d be so proud of that crystal ball, or so confident.

    And that’s not even to mention the greatest failure of all: Madrid shows that the ability of Al Qaeda to strike at the West is undiminished.

  49. “I agree with Stryker’s first point (blame is a waste of time), but the idea that killing terrorists will stop terror is a joke. Terrorists kill themselves. Terrorists are what results from committing acts of terror, not the other way around. Anger and desperation are the cause of terror.”

    Not all terrorists kill themselves. Just as with any other organization ( such as a political party or religious group), there exists a heirarchal structure. At the top are the leaders, who are doing what they do for their own personal enrichment, whether it be glory, power, etc. They concoct what you might call a “business plan” or blueprint, along with a marketing strategy to attract followers.

    The second tier are the technicians and other support personnel who build and strengthen the infrastrcture of the organization, allowing it to grow, as well as providing the tools necessary to achieve the group’s goals.

    The third tier are the evangelists. They supply the propaganda and serve as the recruitment arm of the organization. They tend to be True Believers, but that’s not necessary for the job. Many of the people comprising this tier are petty leaders looking for advancement within the organization, or are merely attaching themselves to what they believe is a rising star and looking to share in the spoils they hope organization will offer.

    The last tier are the dupes. In the terror world, these are the people who blow themselves up. In the political and religious world, these are the foot soldiers who are suckered by the propaganda into doing the work no one else in the organization is willing to do. In other words, they’re expendable patsy’s. The evangelists will always use fear, anger, and desperation (whether real or imagined) as an important part of their recruitment toolkit, because history shows fear and anger to be a potent messages for dupes.

    Now, killing the dupes may be a waste of time in the long-run, but not in the short-run. After all, you have to deal with the immediate threat, and that would be the threat posed by dupes who are planning to blow-up themselves and anyone else around them. In the long-run, it’s far more profitable to strike the second-tier technicians and planners first, then the leadership. With those two tiers eliminated, on of two things will occur: Either the evangelists will jump ship, as there’s nothing further to be personnaly gained by associating themselves with a sinking ship, or they may try to form organizations of their own, though history shows that new groups formed under these conditions tends to be of diluted quality and have a very limited impact. At any rate, you can continue to knock down the smart ones, until all that remains are the True Believers, who never tend to be that bright to begin with and usually fade away into irrelevance.

  50. Undimished?

    As in UK plot foiled today?

    As in Phillipine plot foiled today?

    It seems to me that rather than Madrid proving that al Qaeda’s ability has not been diminished, it shows that Spanish appeasement has emboldened al Qaeda attempts.

  51. Andrew,
    I guess my point is that it’s too early to judge whether the war was worth it. WRT to the cost esitmates, this kinda leads in to one of my pet peaves. Bush isn’t doing a good job of selling his policies.

    I’m not a Bush supporter in general, but on Iraq our opinions have converged, so I support his policy. He doesn’t have to sell me, but he should be working harder to convince guys like you, hal, and Brent.

    You can lay off the missing WMD’s though. Everyone thought that Saddam had them before the war. Clinton, the UN, Blix. E.V.E.R.O.N.E. And – does anyone really believe that Saddam wouldn’t have been right back at it as soon as the sanctions were dropped. And – they were going to be dropped if France, Germany, and Russia had anything to so with it, undermined for sure. Please, Please quit pretending that this was ONLY about WMD’s. This was part of France’s trap to get Bush to go back to the UN one last time. He agreed and now all we hear is where are the WMD’s. See he didn’t have any. This was only one, OVER EMPHASIZED, reason supporting the war.

    Here’s a new Hitchens piece. He sees the light.

  52. A.L.

    I see I picked a bad day to be called out of town to a meeting!

    I am just returning now to see your post. First, thanks for inviting me to respond. I will spend some time tomorrow reading through the posts and writing a response.

  53. A.L.

    I have quickly read through many posts above, and clearly I am entering this debate at a late hour. So here I will try to avoid repeating too many of the arguments that were raised above and instead concentrate on two issues which I think deserve separate consideration but that you appear to want to lump together. These are: Who is to blame for 9/11? Is the Bush Doctrine a better policy for fighting terrorism than the Clinton Doctrine (for want of a better term).

    First, I’d like to remind you of your accusations that prompted my remarks that provided the inspiration for this thread:

    “A Damn Bad Thing happened – a series of attacks against our people and places that culminated in an act of war on 9/11. In the decade or so leading up to this, we didn’t do enough, which is, in part why it happened.”

    Despite my reply, I am not saying Bush is entirely to blame for 9/11. I was trying to be provocative and I am glad it achieved that purpose. What I am challenging, and what I do not think you can prove, is the charge imbedded in your argument that places the majority of the blame on 9/11 on Clinton. Even though later you state that you think the proportion may be equal, based on many of your other comments I’m not sure you really believe this. And the reason why I am accusing you of this is because I will argue that the belief that Clinton was primarily responsible for 9/11 is a critical tenet of the Bush Doctrine, and without using this argument evidence supporting the utility or purpose of the Bush Doctrine is sorely lacking.

    You asked:

    “VT, your evidence for this would be exactly…what?”

    My belief that the majority of the blame for 9/11 falls on Bush is based on the testimony of Richard Clarke under oath, George Bush (interview with Bob Woodward for his book), and Condi Rice (many TV interviews). It is based on the growing realization that Bush downgraded terrorism as a priority after he took office. It is based on the fact that it happened on Bush’s watch. And his failure to admit responsibility for the act but instead blaming it on Clinton is part of my concern (as you put it, a “Buck Stops Here” point), because it calls into serious question Mr. Bush’s ability to look at the situation more objectively and critically evaluate what might have gone wrong. An important component of fighting the GWOT is to figure out what happened; Bush has put up roadblocks at every turn. To suggest this is a “distraction” is equivalent to saying that our leaders do not have to explain their actions to the public.

    You ask for documentary corroboration of this, and I think that many other anti-Iraq war bloggers (Kevin Drum, Atrios, Josh Marshall and others) have covered this pretty well, and I cannot go into the archives to dig it out, but I recall that there are examples of administration priority lists and budget requests (on 9/10) that do not place Al Qaeda or GWOT near the top. Some of this was cited in the 9/11 commission hearings, I believe.

    This evidence is convincing to me and suggests that rather than simply carrying Clinton’s policy forward, as you argue, Bush actually relaxed the policy because perhaps it wasn’t “grand” enough (“weather” vs. “climate”, as you put it). To follow this forward, then, it can be argued that his failure to support the Clinton Doctrine could have led to what is now regarded by some as its biggest failure—9/11. I therefore do not accept 9/11 as de facto evidence against Clinton’s approach, and I think it is nearly impossible to prove otherwise given the many uncertainties surrounding the planning and execution of the attack (e.g., how can we be sure it wasn’t scheduled to occur during Clinton’s administration?). You seem to think you have a better grasp of the workings of our intelligence/law enforcement bureaucracy than I do, which is very likely true, but never-the-less it remains a distinct possibility that, yes, perhaps 9/11 could have been prevented by Bush if he brought the full resources of government to bear on the threats he was being made aware of in his briefings. Instead he was vacationing in Crawford during August 2001. I guarantee Gore would not have done this. Furthermore, you seem to doubt that Bush could have prevented 9/11 even if he wanted to. But I’m not convinced that he necessarily even wanted to, because he likely shares the belief that there isn’t much that can be done to stop terrorism anyway. If this is really his view America has a right to know.

    And aside from 9/11 (and if blame is 50:50 as you argue, we should remove it from consideration for the sake of argument), what is your evidence that the Clinton Doctrine was an “obvious” failure? Because a theory based on one data point is not a theory but a case study, and clearly basing policy—let alone a “doctrine”— on such flimsy evidence is highly dubious, to say the least. If it is that worldwide terrorism has been escalating without repercussion during the “10-years” prior to 9/11, how do you know it wouldn’t have been worse without his policies? This is not evidence, it is conjecture. And how would you judge the recent escalation in worldwide terrorism in this regard, as a failure of the “Bush Doctrine”?

    Finally, I am honestly baffled by repeated assertions that a major problem with Clinton’s approach was that it treated terrorism as a crime, rather than an act of war. Everyone felt this way prior to 9/11, this is, was, and should be a legitimate concern of our leaders. Making the leap to a policy of pre-emption as Bush did so rapidly and without careful thought on the implementation or repercussions is in some way worse than not doing anything, IMO. As I said before, the idea of pre-emption puts us on extremely shaky moral ground, since it places an unrealistic and unachievable burden on the prosecutors (the US government). This therefore leads to an indefensible assertion of moral superiority on the part of the prosecutors, since it is essentially a policy substantiated by faith, not proof. And I would argue that Bush’s failure to recognize this flaw in policy has in fact dealt it perhaps a fatal blow, since the failure to find WMDs in Iraq does not inspire faith in US intelligence or Bush’s sincerity.

    As for the general idea behind the Bush Doctrine, I think there is an exceptionally strong argument to be made against the idea that the “war on terra” should be focused primarily on state-sponsored groups. In glancing through the posts above I noticed that Fareed Zakaria’s name popped up, so I presume Zakaria’s recent argument (which I have read and agree with) against this view has been presented. I know that a lot of “evidence” has been cited that could be interpreted as support for the idea that this policy has made some changes in the way some states operate WRT terrorism. But whether this has any significant impact on the GWOT is, IMO, highly unlikely. It’s still “whack a mole”, but the moles are states, not individuals or small groups. Only time will tell if this has a more global effect, but claims that it will are just fortune telling. However, it strikes me and many other observers that the long term prognosis is much worse, not better, and that the global climate for generating terrorists is as good or better than it has ever been, thanks to Bush.

    The big gaping hole in the Bush Doctrine, as I’ve said here before, is the seeming indifference to domestic security. Contrary to Dan’s prior comments, there is a lot that can be done to better defend ourselves against terrorism at home, to better prepare to deal with the outcome of attacks so that there severity is minimized, and we are not doing anywhere near enough in this regard.

    So in sum I completely reject as unverifiable the idea that Clintons’ policies were a failure, and that Bush’s policies are the necessary alternative. Perhaps you, and most Americans, want a simply articulated “Doctrine” that can be summed up in one or two sentences. I am comfortable with a more comprehensive approach that fully takes into account the complexities and magnitude of the terrorist threat and is not based on faith, predictions or some biased or outdated view of world events. And I want my leaders to acknowledge these uncertainties and complexities; if they don’t, they are not fighting terrorism, they are running a political campaign.

  54. So if VESICLE TRAFFICKER is correct, by this comment Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt was per se responsible for the Pearl Harbor attack, as well the fall of WAKE, GUAM, and the PHILIPPINES; Democrat President Harry S. Truman for both the surprise North Korean invasion of South Korea AND the subsequent Chicom intervention AND the final Stalemate, and Democrats Kennedy and LBJ for VIETNAM! So POTUS Bill Clinton can NOT be blamed even though it was during his tenure, ie “ON HIS WATCH”, that Osama overtly declared war on the USA as well as overtly declaring armed violence against America and American global interests, that Bill’s PRE-AWARENESS of Osama’s anti-American destructive intent and agenda, plus the de facto OVERSEAS deaths of both American uniformed soldiers andor American civilians-charges, inside American-controlled complexes but on foreign soil, and inside embassies legally considered by WORLD DIPLOMATS as AMERICAN SOIL, was per se INSUFFICIENT for Bill to take decisive American action in defense and protection of his own country! SO IOW REPUBLICAN DUBYA IS PER SE RESPONSIBLE FOR OSAMA’S ANTI-AMERICAN DECLARATION OF WAR AND VIOLENCE DESPITE HIM BEING STILL OFFICIALLY BEING ONLY THE GOVERNOR OF TEXAS – RIGHTTTTTTTTTT???

  55. BTW, not every American believed the 1990’s terror events should only be treated as a “crime” instead of an act of war – its one thing to ask for milpol andor financial support from potentially sympathetic world states or allies, ITS QUITE ANOTHER TO PROTRACTIVELY WAIT FOR THEIR PERMISSION OR CONSENSUS TO TAKE ACTION. The UNO is a confederatist world body whose mission is to GUIDE, NOT COMMAND – it is antithetical for a world body composed of sovereign nation-states, let alone an alleged global “great state/power” or superpower which the USA was ascribed, to fail to effectively or quickly respond to ANY sovereignty- or interest-threatening declaration of war or violence by ANY ORGANIZED ENTITY BE IT NATION, NATIONS, OR REVOLUTIONARY GROUPS/MOVEMENTS, because the all-powerful American SUPERMAN has to wait for permission from the LITTLE RASCALS! POTUS CLINTON OVERTLY PROMISED, PROMISED UNILATERAL AND DECISIVE AMERICAN ACTION IF THE UNO FAILED TO DO ANYTHING, BUT AFTERWARD BILL, SURPRISE SURPRISE, DID NOTHING FOR TWO YEARS – Bear in mind that for both his terms, POTUS Bill campaigns were alleged to had received substantial and illegal financial support from orgs with anti-American agendas, or believed/known to support or have links to anti-American Islamic terror, SAME AS WITH SENATOR HILLARY’s!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>