It is time to put the myth of the pre-9/11 mindset to rest…
with which I think I mostly concur–save with some reservations about the level of attention both the Clinton and early Bush Administration paid to the growing al-Qaeda threat, but she then nonetheless writes:
For other segments, namely the vanguard in Afghanistan/Pakistan, the military has and will continue to play a leading role in containing and reducing the jihadist threat.
I was curious who the “vanguard” is? Are we speaking of bin Laden and Zawahiri? If so, why would the military necessarily be best positioned to deal with them? I suspect many of the most precious high-value targets (think KSM, who was apprehended in Rawalpindi by the ISI, I believe with some CIA involvement) could well be hiding in major cities like Karachi or Peshawar (perhaps in even more fantastical disguises than Radovan Karadzic’s!), rather than the badlands of South Waziristan. And even if there, wouldn’t highly focused counter-intelligence efforts–backed up by discrete military action as/if necessary–be the best way to locate and capture these terrorists?
How do our noble Marines expending blood and treasure on ‘clear hold build’ in eastern Afghanistan advance the ball on this front, rather than ‘over the horizon’ forces poised to strike/apprehend select HVT’s, intelligence assets (both foreign and local) at the ready through the region, as aided by diplomatic efforts (to include ‘triangulation’ among India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, assorted financial assistance/pressure, police training initiatives etc). Or, stated differently, why is a militarily intensive & likely decades long nation-building effort with tens of thousands of American forces apparently a ‘no-brainer’ now across both major U.S. political parties when it comes to Afghanistan, particularly if much of the “vanguard” has decamped to Pakistan? (It seems Obama and McCain are only arguing about numbers and where the troops will come from, with both in favor of a “surge” in Afghanistan.) Is the seemingly perennial effort of weaning away Pashtun tribes from Taliban influences a vital national security interest of ours, do we think? If so, why? As Zbigniew Brzezinski recently put it:
We are running the risk of repeating the mistake the Soviet Union made… Our strategy is getting in deeper and deeper.
I suspect others like Chuck Hagel and Sam Nunn might well agree.
For the group, and I guess somewhat related, I’m not sure others responded re: the first prompt the particular prong asking what people believe is the most “underestimated” contributor to terrorism. I hazarded it was the occupation of Muslim lands. Are there any other views, with thanks for your indulgence if the answers are obvious and/or the questions appear off-topic?
Re: above, perhaps I’m only emphasizing Matt Levitt’s much more eloquently made point that a “truly interagency strategy” is needed, and his response had the added benefit of helping ensure we steer clear of any polemics by not falling into (the often so silly) politically charged debates about Democrats only wanting to treat terror as a law enforcement issue, with Republicans just cow-boying around solely with military/unilateralist/preemptive strategies. While these are mostly caricatures and straw-men, still, it’s worth highlighting that we’ve had nearly 200,000 service men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq day after day, for years now. That is the major use of our military today. Both are supposedly there to help us meet our objectives in the GWOT. Are they, or are they instead perhaps ultimately going to make the problems even worse? Let us at least provide our men and women in uniform a succinct strategic objective for their massive labors and sacrifices? What is it?
This week long terrorism salon will continue to be hosted by The Washington Note and UN Dispatch.