Archives for: March 2009, 24
An intense, six-month campaign of Predator strikes in Pakistan has taken such a toll on Al Qaeda that militants have begun turning violently on one another out of confusion and distrust, U.S. intelligence and counter-terrorism officials say.
Who could be surprised? President Obama, when he was still candidate Obama, promised this approach with exactitude. Before a vote was cast in the general election, President Bush reversed course and adopted the new strategy. Military people speak of the new approach: "Finally we took off the gloves." The key seems to lie in going around official lines of authority in Pakistan. Years of getting permission cost time in which those targeted got away, and produced leaks from Pakistani agents tipping off the targets.
What took so long? Those who believe that obsession with Saddam overruled any desire to crush the 9/11 killers can point to Tora Bora, where the administration denied pleas for forces to capture or kill bin Laden.
There is a simpler explanation. Until their last few months in office, the Bush administration was dominated by those who knew in their hearts, independent of any evidence, that an elaborate plot to fly planes into multiple locations within the United States could not have been engineered by the leader of a lunatic fringe group hiding in a cave on the other side of the world. The real world functions through the actions and maneuvering of nations.
The attacks might have come through al Qaeda, but they had to have been sponsored by a real player, a country. Saddam. The possibility that he acted in concert with other nations led to talk of an unlikely "Axis of Evil." That two members of the axis desired nothing more intensely than the blood of each other did not deter the thought. And so bin Laden was allowed to escape so that the administration could go after the real culprit. Saddam would not get away with it. Iraq would follow. Meanwhile, Pakistan was our friend.
Then Rumsfeld left involuntarily. Cheney's influence finally, at long last, waned. Things changed with new leadership in the Pentagon.
A new strategy has proven itself sound, perhaps even successful, in Iraq. It involves talks with some of the insurgents that used to be the government. They are the very groups Cheney-Rumsfeld theology would have suspected of involvement in 9/11. Talks with Iran are also contemplated. Similar moves are floated in Afghanistan with some non-al Qaeda elements of the Taliban.
In Washington, the reality-based community is back in town.