Monthly Archives: May 2011
One of the most enduring themes of the Viet Nam era was that of the badly damaged Vietnam vet who came home and created mayhem – all because of his experiences and training. It was a myth that died hard only because the war was so unpopular and so many people wanted to believe it.
BG Burkett in his book Stolen Valor, completely takes all the underlying premises that supported that myth apart with facts and statistics. I don’t have time to relate them all but I cannot recommend that book highly enough.
The case against American soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians turns on the idea of a rogue unit. But what if the killings are a symptom of a deeper problem?
Instead of telling the story of the now infamous “kill squad” from the 5th Stryker Brigade out of Ft. Lewis WA, and the reasons for their actions and activities, Mogelson does what many hacks do and tries to conflate what happened in a single platoon out in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan with a problem that infects the entire military.
Granted – no, stipulated – war is hell, it changes people, it is something which anyone who has ever experienced it up close and personal would never wish on another person. And yes, there are stresses that come from multiple deployments, leaving your family behind and watching men you think more of than anyone in the world die in action. But those stresses aren’t unique to these wars. Yes, multiple deployments are fairly unique. But then the alternative is the duration – which my parents did in WWII – 4 years of war, from beginning to end.
But that’s not the point of the article. Mogelson does a credible job of telling the “kill squad” story. It’s a horrible story in which a deviant but charismatic junior leader, in an isolated outpost, talks some impressionable squad members into doing the unthinkable all while the weak leadership in charge of the platoon failed in their roles.
Had he left it here, I could actually find myself saying nice things about it. It is a story that must be told.
But he didn’t leave it there. He started to veer in that old and predictable lane in which the military is indicted for making robot killers out of their charges and becoming so good at it that things like this happen.
In fact, just the treatment of the title outlines his attempt. And interestingly, later on in the article, he uses the full quote from Gen. George C Marshall from which the line comes:
“Once an army is involved in war, there is a beast in every fighting man which begins tugging at its chains. And a good officer must learn early on how to keep the beast under control, both in his men and himself.”
Mogelson deals with the first part, but he makes absolutely no effort at all to understand the second part and how critical it is to the institution he attacks. That is, “good officer[s]” and NCOs do keep control of it and they comprise the vast majority of the leadership in our military. That’s why the military spends so much time and effort training them to do so.
Mogelson is reduced to using the Philippine insurrection and My Lai, two isolated examples decades apart as some sort of proof of his premise. They are, instead, outliers. As was Abu Ghraib. There are always going to be bad people found in good institutions. We see bad cops – but we don’t think all policemen are bad nor do we pretend that law enforcement as a whole deserves blanket condemnation. We realize that with any organization of size which deals in a deadly business that there may be some bad people who we will have to weed out at some point or another.
However, Mogelson, via sociologist Stjepan Mestrovic, rejects that premise:
If we lack a sense of collective responsibility for these more recent war crimes, Mestrovic blames this on our readiness to believe that such occasional iniquities are aberrations perpetrated by a derelict few, rather than the inevitable result of institutional failures and, more generally, the nature of the conflicts in which we are engaged.
Institutional failures? A military that fights the cleanest wars imaginable, does everything in its power to avoid collateral damage, demands that its leadership monitor and control that so-called “beast” by being totally involved and leading from the front. A military that has fought like no other military has ever fought in history is an institutional failure?
Yeah, it was 40 years ago too according to these experts. Except it wasn’t.
Welcome to my world of those long gone days of the Viet Nam era when exactly this sort of nonsense was written about Viet Nam and it’s vets. And, if you read the comments to this story, you’ll find “mission accomplished” is appropriate:
These men and women return to abuse and often kill innocent people stateside. Their minds are permanently mangled.
The United States military is not protecting us but putting every US citizen in grave danger from the killing robots they have created..
END the military. We will all be safer.
In sum, the military’s purpose in training young men and women is to twist, destroy, and pervert basic human decency, empathy and consideration of other human beings– everything that most likely his or her family has also strived to cultivate in him or her– in order to serve the aims of empire.
Thus, the military is essentially an evil institution.
The old meme is resurfacing and gaining some traction. As I said way back then, “never again”.
The military is both an honorable profession and a extraordinarily necessary one. Its members are not “victims” of some evil institution. They’re not robots. They’re not “killing machines” who come home to “abuse and often kill innocent people stateside”. The purpose of our military isn’t now nor has it ever been to “pervert basic human decency”. It’s to do a necessary and often distasteful and dangerous job for the BENEFIT of those back home – for their safety and freedom.
Ironically the NYT publishes this garbage just after some hard men heroically risked their lives in a daring raid to kill a mass-murdering terrorist who struck the very city they print this in.
This is the thanks they get.
Short version? Two words: Eric Holder. Or one word if you prefer: circus.
Here’s Sen. Jeff Sessions questioning Holder yesterday trying to get a little clarity on a particular subject, i.e. if there is a presumption that terrorists would be tried in civilian courts:
“My question to you fundamentally is every law enforcement officer involved out there, every military person involved out there needs to know what the policy is,” Sessions said. “So, is the policy that they [captured terrorists] would presumptively be tried in civilian court?”
Holder, citing the president himself, said there is a presumption of that captured terrorists would be tried in civilian courts.
“As I said, the archived speech that the president made was that there is a presumption,” Holder said. “It is not an irrebutable presumption that cases go to the civilian court with regard to the Miranda issue, but I think we have demonstrated hundreds of times, hundreds of times, that we can get actionable intelligence, while at the same time prosecuting people in jail for really extended periods of time.”
Of course Holder leaves himself some wiggle room, but it is clear he holds civilian courts to be superior to military tribunals. That, for some misbegotten reason, he believes justice can be best served in a civilian court regardless of any external concerns. And finally, people who’ve committed an act of war against the United States deserve all the rights reserved for citizens of the United States, even if the act occurred out of the US and they’re not citizens (obviously I withdraw the point if they are US citizens committing acts of terror in the US – the point is our Constitution guarantees their rights – not any rights of foreign nationals committing acts of terror/war).
It makes absolutely no sense to me. It demonstrates a bias that is both arrogant and dangerous. It also has little to do with “justice”. So, given that Holder is our AG and someone I have absolutely no confidence in legally or otherwise, I certainly am glad, frankly, that a couple of rounds found their way into the cranium of OBL. Imagine the three-ring-circus Holder and crew would have tried to put on had we captured him alive.
BTW, anyone know what “irrebutable” means?
If you’re a political junkie, then you’ll be interested in this new voter typology that the Pew Research Center has put together describing how the voting population is now configured:
The description of each of these is as follows:
The most visible shift in the political landscape since Pew Research’s previous political typology in early 2005 is the emergence of a single bloc of across-the-board conservatives. The long-standing divide between economic, pro-business conservatives and social conservatives has blurred. Today, Staunch Conservatives take extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues – on the size and role of government, on economics, foreign policy, social issues and moral concerns. Most agree with the Tea Party and even more very strongly disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance. A second core group of Republicans – Main Street Republicans – also is conservative, but less consistently so.
On the left, Solid Liberals express diametrically opposing views from the Staunch Conservatives on virtually every issue. While Solid Liberals are predominantly white, minorities make up greater shares of New Coalition Democrats – who include nearly equal numbers 0f whites, African Americans and Hispanics – and Hard-Pressed Democrats, who are about a third African American. Unlike Solid Liberals, both of these last two groups are highly religious and socially conservative. New Coalition Democrats are distinguished by their upbeat attitudes in the face of economic struggles.
Independents have played a determinative role in the last three national elections. But the three groups in the center of the political typology have very little in common, aside from their avoidance of partisan labels. Libertarians and Post-Moderns are largely white, well-educated and affluent. They also share a relatively secular outlook on some social issues, including homosexuality and abortion. But Republican-oriented Libertarians are far more critical of government, less supportive of environmental regulations, and more supportive of business than are Post-Moderns, most of whom lean Democratic.
Disaffecteds, the other main group of independents, are financially stressed and cynical about politics. Most lean to the Republican Party, though they differ from the core Republican groups in their support for increased government aid to the poor. Another group in the center, Bystanders, largely consign themselves to the political sidelines and for the most part are not included in this analysis.
On reflection, I think it is a pretty fair description of the electorate as it stands today. Pew’s article contains links to previous typologies it has published, this being their latest. The obvious point, after reviewing this, is that politicians of today must somehow satisfy their core constituencies but be able to reach out to the “independents” in a meaningful way in order to garner their votes. And, if you read the descriptions of each, there are plenty of clues as to how to do that. But there are also some possible show stoppers.
I don’t really have a particular problem with the breakdown of voting groups but – and this is just a sense – I’m not particularly convinced by their numbers. For example, I have difficulty believing that “Solid Liberals” outnumber “Staunch Conservatives”. That’s just not been the trend, and in my opinion, it is even less likely given the condition of our economy and our government’s finances.
Some key findings of the study:
More than in the recent past, attitudes about government separate Democrats from Republicans, and it is these beliefs that are most correlated with political preferences looking ahead to 2012.
Couple that with:
The GOP still enjoys an intensity advantage, which proved to be a crucial factor in the Republicans’ victories in the 2010 midterm elections.
Obviously that’s a perishable commodity that can be lost at any time.
Now add the independents and their attitudes:
Looking through that list, you can see that the “Libertarian” group has a natural affinity for the right as do most “Disaffected”. Even the “Post Moderns” group up in the majority “Moderate” area and not the liberal area. But look at what one could consider “wedge” issues and how they line up. It is all over the place and many of the answers are diametrically opposed to their supposed natural alliances. Probably the most disturbing to me is the “Business corporations make too much profit.”
Anyway, that’s a pretty heavy mine field politically speaking. But you’re also looking at (if you accept Pew’s numbers) 34% of the voting population – the obvious difference in any election.
By the way, click on over to the study and look at the comparison between the GOP and Democratic groups and how they answer the “Business corporations make too much profit”. What you’ll see on that particular issue are opportunities for the GOP among New Coalition Dems and for the Democrats among “Main St. Republicans”. On the latter, I’m not sure how “main street” of a Republican you are if you think that to be true about business corporations, but there it is.
Finally, some other findings to chew on. They illustrate the complexity of the electorate and the difficulty in attempting to address various issues:
- Majorities in most typology groups say the country will need both to cut spending and raise taxes to reduce the budget deficit. Staunch Conservatives are the exception – 59% say the focus should only be on cutting spending.
- Core GOP groups largely prefer elected officials who stick to their positions rather than those who compromise. Solid Liberals overwhelmingly prefer officials who compromise, but the other two Democratic groups do not.
- For Staunch Conservatives it is still “Drill, Baby, Drill” – 72% say that expanding exploration for and production of oil, coal and natural gas is the more important energy priority. In most other typology groups, majorities say developing alternatives is more important.
- Republican groups say the Supreme Court should base rulings on its interpretation of the Constitution “as originally written.” Democratic groups say the Court should base its rulings on what the Constitution means today.
- Main Street Republicans and GOP-oriented Disaffecteds are far more likely than Staunch Conservatives or Libertarians to favor a significant government role in reducing childhood obesity.
- Solid Liberals are the only typology group in which a majority (54%) views democracy as more important than stability in the Middle East. Other groups say stable governments are more important or are divided on this question.
- New Coalition Democrats are more likely than the other core Democratic groups to say that most people can make it if they are willing to work hard.
- More Staunch Conservatives regularly watch Fox News than regularly watch CNN, MSNBC and the nightly network news broadcasts combined.
- There are few points on which all the typology groups can agree, but cynicism about politicians is one. Majorities across all eight groups, as well as Bystanders, say elected officials lose touch with the people pretty quickly.
- Staunch Conservatives overwhelmingly want to get tougher with China on economic issues. Across other typology groups, there is far more support for building stronger economic relations with China.
- The allied airstrikes in Libya divide Democratic groups. Solid Liberals and New Coalition Democrats favor the airstrikes, but about as many Hard-Pressed Democrats favor as oppose the operation.
- Michelle Obama is popular with Main Street Republicans, as well as most other typology groups. But Staunch Conservatives view the first lady unfavorably – and 43% view her very unfavorably.
With all of that, though, here is the key to the next election:
The new typology finds a deep and continuing divide between the two parties, as well as differences within both partisan coalitions. But the nature of the partisan divide has changed substantially over time.
More than in the recent past, attitudes about government separate Democrats from Republicans, and it is these beliefs that are most correlated with political preferences looking ahead to 2012. [emphasis mine]
Those are the attitudes that the politicos are going to have to develop, sell and exploit in 2012. However wins will have done the best job of either selling big government or smaller government and all that goes with each. Or you’re going to see an attempt to co-opt “small government” by the left by attempting to do things like drastically reducing military spending and raising taxes on the rich and business while hardly touching entitlements and calling the result “small government” as “demanded” by the electorate.
It is going to be a very interesting political season. As interesting as it will be to see who ends up representing GOP hopes in the presidential election, it will be even more interesting – at least to me – to see how Obama plans to run on his record this time. Because he finally has too.
Yup, we’re right in the middle of the old Chinese saying “may you live in interesting times”. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure the saying necessarily meant those interesting times were good times.
I honestly don’t get this. Why in the world does Obama think that showing a photo of a dead OBL is akin to "spiking the football" and will only do harm, no good?
The apparent thinking is that showing such a picture will inflame the jihadists and have them seeking revenge? Like flying into Pakistan, assaulting Osama’s house, killing him, his son and sundry others and dumping OBL in the ocean won’t?
Reuters, by the way, has released 9 photos of the aftermath of the raid, including shots of 3 bodies. If you’re averse to blood and gore skip the last 3 photos. One assumes these photos won’t inflame anyone … I guess.
Oh, and to make the argument that we wouldn’t like it if pictures of an American soldier killed by the crazies was published is just silly. We’ve seen that since Somalia for heaven sake. It is irrelevant. The point, of course, is without proof the myth of OBL lives, and one would think that the entire point of going in and killing this larger than life (for the jihadist community) figure was to kill that myth.
Now, suddenly, we’re all about what is or isn’t appropriate. I mean, we’re going to have a Senate hearing about why the code name “Geronimo” was used for heaven sake!
Just when I thought we were getting our feet back under us, the political wusses reemerge.
Sure didn’t take long, did it?
UPDATE: More wussification – this time in Germany.
Seriously – this is just patent nonsense, offensive and a meme which needs to quickly die:
Try applying a different scenario (at the risk of violating Godwin’s law) - Those on the left are celebrating the death of 6 million Jews. Those on the right are celebrating the death of their murderer. If you can find those to be morally equivalent acts, then you’ll agree with the cartoon above.
Perhaps it is becoming clearer to even those in deep denial that that the Muslim Brotherhood is "moderate" only if the term is redefined into meaninglessness. The death of Osama bin Laden provides another indication of the MB’s true character:
But in its first public statement on the killing of bin Laden, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood used the honorific term "sheikh" to refer to the al-Qaeda leader. It also accused Western governments of linking Islam and terrorism, and defended "resistance" against the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as "legitimate."
The Muslim Brotherhood’s response to bin Laden’s death may finally end the mythology — espoused frequently in the U.S. — that the organization is moderate or, at the very least, could moderate once in power. This is, after all, precisely how Muslim Brothers describe their creed — "moderate," as opposed to al-Qaeda, which is radical. "Moderate Islam means not using violence, denouncing terrorism, and not working with jihadists," said Muslim Brotherhood youth activist Khaled Hamza, for whom the organization’s embrace of "moderate Islam" was the primary reason he joined.
Yet the Muslim Brotherhood’s promise that its "moderation" means rejecting violence includes a gaping exception: the organization endorses violence against military occupations, which its leaders have told me include Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, and Palestine — in other words, nearly every major conflict on the Eurasian continent.
It should end the mythology, but it won’t. There are those on the left to invested in the belief that they are a moderate force that they won’t back down even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. This is your “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood’s reaction to the death of bin Laden:
"The whole world, and especially the Muslims, have lived with a fierce media campaign to brand Islam as terrorism and describe the Muslims as violent by blaming the September 11th incident on al-Qaeda." It then notes that "Sheikh Osama bin Laden" was assassinated alongside "a woman and one of his sons and with a number of his companions," going on to issue a rejection of violence and assassinations. It goes on to ominously declare that the Muslim Brotherhood supports "legitimate resistance against foreign occupation for any country, which is the legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and international agreements," and demands that the U.S., the European Union, and NATO quickly "end the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people." It closes by demanding that the U.S. "stop its intelligence operations against those who differ with it, and cease its interference in the internal affairs of any Arab or Muslim country."
As Eric Trager says, the statement issued by the MB is “vintage bin Laden”:
[I]t’s Muslim lands, not America, that are under attack; it’s Muslims, not American civilians, who are the ultimate victims; and, despite two American presidents’ genuine, effusive promises to the contrary, Islam is the target. It’s an important indicator that despite its increased responsibility in post-Mubarak Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood may well remain deeply hostile toward even the one of the most basic and defensible of American interests in the Middle East — that of securing Americans from terrorism.
In Egypt, at least, this is the result of the “Arab Spring”. As predicted, the best organized and most ruthless are winning out. And the result will not advance the peace process in the region. On the contrary, “moderate” has come to be defined by bin Laden, not by any recognizable dictionary. The Muslim Brotherhood has fooled a lot of so-called “scholars” into believing them to be a benign force for good and interested in democratic reform. Instead, they’ll most likely find out that they’re anything but benign and they are only interested in democracy if it advances their agenda. And that agenda is anything but moderate.
If this is true, it is a bombshell and will kill the luster on Obama’s new found Commander-in-Chief bona fides.
It comes from a site names "Socyberty" and is posted by someone named Ulsterman. It is from an anonymous source (a "Washington DC insider"). So all of this is suspect – stipulated. But when you read it, it all reads pretty authoritatively.
So, take it for what its worth, but it is, at least, a very interesting rumor:
Q: You stated that President Obama was “overruled” by military/intelligence officials regarding the decision to send in military specialists into the Osama Bin Laden compound. Was that accurate?
A: I was told – in these exact terms, “we overruled him.” (Obama) I have since followed up and received further details on exactly what that meant, as well as the specifics of how Leon Panetta worked around the president’s “persistent hesitation to act.” There appears NOT to have been an outright overruling of any specific position by President Obama, simply because there was no specific position from the president to do so. President Obama was, in this case, as in all others, working as an absentee president.
And, of course, it gets worse:
Q: What changed the president’s position and enabled the attack against Osama Bin Laden to proceed?
A: Nothing changed with the president’s opinion – he continued to avoid having one. Every time military and intelligence officials appeared to make progress in forming a position, Jarrett would intervene and the stalling would begin again. Hillary started the ball really rolling as far as pressuring Obama began, but it was Panetta and Petraeus who ultimately pushed Obama to finally act – sort of. Panetta was receiving significant reports from both his direct CIA sources, as well as Petraeus-originating Intel. Petraeus was threatening to act on his own via a bombing attack. Panetta reported back to the president that a bombing of the compound would result in successful killing of Osama Bin Laden, and little risk to American lives. Initially, as he had done before, the president indicated a willingness to act. But once again, Jarrett intervened, convincing the president that innocent Pakistani lives could be lost in such a bombing attack, and Obama would be left attempting to explain Panetta’s failed policy. Again Obama hesitated – this time openly delaying further meetings to discuss the issue with Panetta. A brief meeting was held at this time with other officials, including Secretary Gates and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gates, like Panetta, was unable to push the president to act. It was at this time that Gates indicated to certain Pentagon officials that he may resign earlier than originally indicated – he was that frustrated. Both Panetta and Clinton convinced him to stay on and see the operation through.
So, according to this, all those “intense” meetings the White House said President Obama attended really were a lot of one side trying to get him to act and Valarie Jarrett convincing him not too.
How’d they eventually get a “go?” That’s interesting as well (I’ve broken this into some paragraphs that aren’t in the original):
What happened from there is what was described by me as a “masterful manipulation” by Leon Panetta. Panetta indicated to Obama that leaks regarding knowledge of Osama Bin Laden’s location were certain to get out sooner rather than later, and action must be taken by the administration or the public backlash to the president’s inaction would be “…significant to the point of political debilitation.” It was at that time that Obama stated an on-ground campaign would be far more acceptable to him than a bombing raid. This was intended as a stalling tactic, and it had originated from Jarrett. Such a campaign would take both time, and present a far greater risk of failure. The president had been instructed by Jarrett to inform Mr., Panetta that he would have sole discretion to act against the Osama Bin Laden compound.
Jarrett believed this would further delay Panetta from acting, as the responsibility for failure would then fall almost entirely on him. What Valerie Jarrett, and the president, did not know is that Leon Panetta had already initiated a program that reported to him –and only him, involving a covert on the ground attack against the compound. Basically, the whole damn operation was already ready to go – including the specific team support Intel necessary to engage the enemy within hours of being given notice.
Panetta then made plans to proceed with an on-ground assault. This information reached either Hillary Clinton or Robert Gates first (likely via military contacts directly associated with the impending mission) who then informed the other. Those two then met with Panetta, who informed each of them he had been given the authority by the president to proceed with a mission if the opportunity presented itself. Both Gates and Clinton warned Panetta of the implications of that authority – namely he was possibly being made into a scapegoat. Panetta admitted that possibility, but felt the opportunity to get Bin Laden outweighed that risk. During that meeting, Hillary Clinton was first to pledge her full support for Panetta, indicating she would defend him if necessary. Similar support was then followed by Gates. The following day, and with Panetta’s permission, Clinton met in private with Bill Daley and urged him to get the president’s full and open approval of the Panetta plan.
Daley agreed such approval would be of great benefit to the action, and instructed Clinton to delay proceeding until he had secured that approval. Daley contacted Clinton within hours of their meeting indicating Jarrett refused to allow the president to give that approval. Daley then informed Clinton that he too would fully support Panetta in his actions, even if it meant disclosing the president’s indecision to the American public should that action fail to produce a successful conclusion. Clinton took that message back to Panetta and the CIA director initiated the 48 hour engagement order. At this point, the President of the United States was not informed of the engagement order – it did not originate from him, and for several hours after the order had been given and the special ops forces were preparing for action into Pakistan from their position in Afghanistan, Daley successfully kept Obama and Jarrett insulated from that order.
Again, I want to be clear – this is from a blog site I don’t know, written by someone using a handle and quoting an anonymous source. But I also have to say that it hits me as very, very plausible. It makes Gates, Panetta, Clinton and Daley look pretty good. The president, on the other hand, doesn’t appear in a very good light and Jarrett comes off as a puppet master. It also makes the not so subtle point that Obama seemed more concerned with the possible political effects of failure than actually taking the chance of getting OBL.
Anyway, this link takes you too the continuation of this information from the anonymous source from the anonymous blogger on a site I never heard of – but still, given his history, it sure seems believable, doesn’t it?
Someone ask me that and it set me to thinking. I’ve concluded that there is (and was) more value in his death than if we’d taken him alive.
Let me expand on that.
As we all know, he’d been holed up in that fortress cum “mansion” for 6 years with no land line or internet connection – so he was dependent on trusted couriers for news of the organization he’d founded and had little ability to influence the day to day operations of al Qaeda. Obviously he would have still been a valuable intelligence asset, but not quite as valuable as one might think. I get the impression that bin Laden’s real value was that of figurehead – that as long as he lived, his existence continued to demonstrate to his followers how powerless the “great Satan” really was. Every day he drew breath, he rubbed in the fact that he could take 3,000 lives in a single day and the US couldn’t even take his.
With each video or audio clip he had smuggled out of his lair and posted among jihadi sites, he tweaked the nose of the US and inspired his jihadist followers. His stature grew with each tweak. His survival helped him sell the “righteousness” of his cause because he could claim the protection of his god as the reason he was still untouched.
Bin Laden, given his experiences prior to 9/11, honestly believed that the US was too decadent and cowardly to ever take real action against he and his followers. He’d tried to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993, did bomb Kohbar Towers and two African embassies as well as attacking the USS Cole. In all case the reaction was pitifully inadequate. He also believed we didn’t have the fortitude or courage to take casualties and stick it out for the long run. His planning got more ambitious. He, like many throughout history, badly underestimated his foe.
His first indication of his future fate came with the capture of Saddam Hussein. Hussein shared bin Laden’s beliefs about the US and found himself to be horribly wrong. Not only did we destroy his regime, we were relentless in his pursuit, finally capturing him months after the culmination of combat operations in Iraq. He went to the gallows a thoroughly defeated man.
Bin Laden didn’t expect to have to live as he’s had too these past 6 years. He believed at some point soon after we invaded Afghanistan we’d tire of the combat deaths and the commitment and leave. He felt his beliefs about the US would be vindicated. But not only did we stay in Afghanistan, we invaded Iraq and stayed there as well. And when it was clear we were going to be successful there, the first realization that he was dead wrong about the US had to dawn on him. To quote Admiral Yamamato, he had awakened a sleeping giant with his 9/11 attacks, and that giant wasn’t going to roll over this time and go back to sleep.
The Sunday operation that led to his death was the culmination of years upon years of effort to find the man. It was a relentless pursuit. It cost us lives. It took a lot of money. It took a lot of time. But when that Navy SEAL pumped two rounds into bin Laden’s head, he not only killed bin Laden, but he killed forever the narrative bin Laden had built up among his followers for years.
No longer could his followers take comfort in the belief that the US was a decadent, cowardly paper tiger. Iraq and 10 years in Afghanistan had blown that myth away. No longer could his followers believe that his survival demonstrated the righteousness of their cause. He was now fish food.
More important was the message his death sent to the entire jihadist community – something his capture couldn’t do – it may take years, lives and money to find you, but we will find you. And when we find you, we will kill you.
That’s an incredibly powerful and important message to send. Bin Laden’s death was the very best way to send it. It will reverberate throughout the jihadist community and the hopeful result is a further lessening of al Qaeda’s influence and a peeling away of the less committed among that community. It is clear that his death was a greater “value” for the US that was his capture.
Hats off to all those who made it happen. As someone said, “5.1.11 is the day we got even”. And the jihadist community will remember it, and hopefully its lesson, just as we remember 9/11.
This past weekend was the 6th Annual Milblog Conference. I attended and it was the best one yet. Our headliner was former SecDef Donald Rumsfeld and since I’d met him previously, I was asked to introduce him and facilitate the Q&A, which I was honored to do.
It was a fun 45 minutes as you’ll probably see if you’ve the time or desire to watch the whole thing. I start the questioning with the shakeup in the national security arena where Petraeus is going to CIA and Panetta going to SecDef. Secretary Rumsfeld reminded me that Ryan Crocker is also included in that as the new ambassador to Afghanistan.
He’s definitely right to point that out and it plays even more into the theory that we’re going to fight the war differently than we have. Petraeus and Crocker had a very tight relationship in Iraq and there’s no doubt in my mind that the relationship will be reestablished with Petraeus at CIA. It again emphasizes the probability of a more covert, SOF, “secret ninja” type of war in the future, vs. the way we’re waging it now.
And, with the demise of bin Laden, many are now going to call on us to pack up and leave claiming our mission is complete and encouraging us to turn Afghanistan over to the Afghanis to sort out. I see the pressure to do that building over the coming months (remember July is the month of the scheduled withdrawal from A’stan). About all that might dampen those cries is if al Qaeda strikes somewhere in retaliation for the bin Laden death (and I fully expect they will, however they may not mount any sort of reprisal in the next few months).