On Panetta and Defeating al-Qaeda

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on his arrival in Kabul that the US could be on the verge of defeating al-Qaeda, and could do so in the wake of the killing of Usama Bin Laden by keeping the pressure on in Afghanistan, northwest Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

According to the Department of Defense, Panetta

‘…explained his reasoning saying there are between 10 to 20 key al-Qaida leaders in areas like Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and North Africa and tracking them down would mean the defeat of the terror organization. “We have undermined their ability to conduct 9-11-type attacks,” he said. “We have them on the run. Now is the moment, following what happened to [Osama] bin Laden to put maximum pressure on them, because I do believe if we continue this effort we can cripple al-Qaida as a threat. Panetta said al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is most likely in hiding in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Area. ‘

Panetta’s way of thinking about al-Qaeda is welcome in the sense that he is depicting it as a small network with only a few capable leaders (10 to 20). After years of getting the scale of al-Qaeda wrong, we should by now realize that despite its widespread tiny cells, it is a miniscule organization, if it can even be called an organization.

But thinking about al-Qaeda as an organization to which entrepreneurial leadership is key is itself problematic. Most al-Qaeda plots have been relatively low-tech and frankly have been mediocre, such as the plan to attack tourist hotels in Jordan in fall of 2000, which was finally undertaken in fall 2005. What did that accomplish? It redoubled the insistence of the Jordanian government on cooperating with the US in the fight against al-Qaeda. It made al-Qaeda deeply unpopular in Jordan, and that unpopularity attached also to some other Muslim fundamentalist groups. It may well have helped lead to the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the self-proclaimed Jordanian “al-Qaeda” leader active in Iraq, on whom US military men implausibly blamed a majority of attacks in Iraq in that period.

When Zarqawi was killed in spring, 2006, in Iraq it had no effect whatsoever on the rate of the bombings and other killings claimed by radical Muslim organizations in that country. Indeed, the rest of 2006 was the most violent period in 21st century Iraqi history. This outcome was because there were many angry Sunni Arabs in Iraq perfectly willing and able to take up the kind of plots and attacks that were Zarqawi’s trademark.

So here is how you really defeat al-Qaeda:

1. Stop over-estimating it. The organization, despite having one big success at mass murder, is tiny and full of marginal personalities. It should be a concern of the FBI and Interpol, not of the US Secretary of Defense.

2. Don’t depend on private armies, including ‘contractors’. Ronald Reagan’s deployment of the Mujahidin and their Arab allies against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s created al-Qaeda in the first place. Likewise Reagan used right wing death squads in Nicaragua. He seems to have liked to make an end run around the constitution that way. Panetta showed pride in the supposedly apolitical and professional American military in his talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. But the US is increasingly willing to mobilize private rightwing militias and mercenaries for military purposes, which likely will create more al-Qaedas. Military actions should be the province of the Department of Defense.

3. Keep a light US military footprint in places where the US is unpopular. Al-Qaeda began with its fight against the Soviet Union, then occupying Afghanistan, and with an alliance with the US. The illegal US invasion of Iraq and subsequent military occupation of that country gave an opening for violent and unscrupulous men to create an al-Qaeda branch in that country of some significance, and created a recruitment tool for manipulative al-Qaeda recruiters.

4. Support Palestinian statehood and immediate full human rights for Palestinians. The Palestinians ethnically cleansed in 1948 now have millions of descendants, millions of them lacking citizenship in any state and therefore lacking ‘the right to have rights.’ Some 40 percent of the people of Gaza are refugees from what is now Israel, many of them still living in camps. On top of all that, the Israelis won’t even let them export their made goods, keeping them down economically. Most Muslims sympathize with the Palestinians and resent the way they have been treated, and the unresolved character of this dispute is a major driver of radicalism. This resentment is a potent recruitment tool for the radicals. Al-Qaeda itself is manipulative and insincere, but it has had some success in recruiting from among ordinary young men..

Instead of doing the above, the US is unwisely pressuring Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq to allow thousands of US troops to stay after next January, despite the obvious prospect that their presence will further destabilize Iraq. If you wanted to destroy al-Qaeda, getting out of Iraq militarily would be an excellent first step. Arranging for a just settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict would be the nail in the coffin of such recruiting.

There were never many radicals in the Muslim world, and what little success they have had depended on being able constantly to recruit new blood, preferably from the educated classes. The US should not allow itself to be blackmailed by these small cells of monsters with C4 explosives. But where doing the right thing anyway also has the side effect of reducing resentment, that is yet another reason to do it. The resentments generated by the clear injustices done to the Palestinians, and by big US military footprints in Arab and Muslim lands set the US off on the wrong foot with many in the region. That rift is reparable, but Americans and their regional friends have to recognize it and want to repair it.

The way to defeat al-Qaeda is not to kill 20 leaders. It is not to create an atmosphere in which such hothouse movements thrive.

40 Responses

  1. I am left wondering about the unintended consequences and fallout caused by a rather sudden and drastic alteration in the United States’posture toward Israel. The human rights crimes that have long been perpetrated against the Palestinians are undeniable and unforgiveable, but its not so simple for the United States to suddenly change its relationship with a reliably allied state and culture. Reducing the American footprint in the entirety of the Muslim world, this includes Libya and a meaningful withdrawl from Iraq, is a realistic policy that this administration should be focused on. Israel is too great off an issue to be resolved by 2012 or even 2016.

    • Recognizing a Palestinian state does not require bad relations with Israel.

      The UN/ NATO intervention to get rid of Qaddafi is widely popular in the Arab world, unlike among Western Libertarians and Trotskyites. This is because most Arabs actually care about ordinary Libyans being murdered by the brutal Qaddafi.

      • that’s altogether true. recognizing a state of palestine while maintaining good relations with israel are not incompatible. but nothing good’s coming out of the region right now – and likely won’t improve anytime soon. so how about this as a kickstart?

        1) obama fly to israel and deliver in the knesset a strong case why a state of palestine is in israel’s best interests while reaffirming america’s determination to defend israel’s survival against the nutjobs. secondarily, obama lays it on the line with the israeli public, making clear that this is a prime U.S. interest. they can either keep the status quo or good relations with the U.S. choose.

        2)get the quartet )and the saudis) to open a channel to hamas spelling out their future support for the state of palestine – even one where hamas wins political power. but in return, hamas stops smoking its own weed. it agrees w/o word games to co-existence with israel and disavows the abhorrent, jew-hating diatribes in its founding charter

      • Juan, Israel will have nothing to do with a Palestinian state unless they run it under a Jewish Police State,with a Bush like puppet to do their bidding.

      • Recognizing a Palestinian state does not require bad relations with Israel.

        Wait…WHAT?!?

        Run that one by any Israelis you know, Professor. I’m pretty sure they’d disagree.

        • @Joe please check the Jstreet page here: link to jstreet.org

          “We all know – as have the previous two administrations – that the borders of those two states will be based on, but will not follow exactly, the lines established in the 1949 armistice and that held through June 4, 1967.

          The 1967 lines will need to be adjusted in mutually agreed “swaps” of land, but they are the only basis for peace.

          For nearly a generation, Israeli Prime Ministers, leaders of its defense forces and other officials have recognized that Israel’s security depends more on resolving the conflict than retaining a few extra square miles of territory. That’s why they have all negotiated on this basis – and that’s the impetus for last week’s groundbreaking ad run by prominent Israelis in Israeli papers making their case for negotiating borders on the basis of 1967 lines, which J Street reprinted in The New York Times.”

        • “@Joe please check the Jstreet page here: link to jstreet.org”

          JStreet is an American organization.

          But more importantly, the question is not whether Israel would be willing to see the United States recognize a Palestinian state that comes into existence after negotiating a peace deal and borders with Israel. The question is whether Israel would be happy to see the United States recognize a Palestinian state that hasn’t negotiated peace and borders with Israel.

      • “Recognizing a Palestinian state does not require bad relations with Israel.” Can’t be said often enough or loudly enough. In the United States (and elsewhere) the Palestinian situation is framed in a Manichean “Israel v. Palestinians” way, and right wing Israeli parties frame it this way too for their own constituencies and for foreign consumption. But poll after poll, taking into account the unreliable nature of polls taken in close proximity to terrorist events (real or imagined like many of the gratuitous fence shootings) have shown that the Israeli polity is firmly behind the idea of having a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state along some modified version of the pre-1968 borders. Israel has a robust progressive community that extends into most demographics of the Israeli population (with the notable exception of the recent immigrant community) that fully supports the idea of Palestinian and Arab rights even within Israel. Upsetting Bibi Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, Shas, Israel Beiteinu and such is simply not anti-Israel, nor need that endanger USA relations with Israel.

        • But the question isn’t whether you and I and Juan Cole understand that. It isn’t even whether the Israeli public agrees with the notion of someday somehow having a Palestinian state that will be a wicked awesome neighbor.

          The question is whether the Israeli political establishment agrees with us that recognizing a Palestinian state now, before a peace deal is accomplished, is the right idea.

        • “(with the notable exception of the recent immigrant community)” Is this the community Putin recently visited?

  2. I wish (and hope) the next “Daniel Ellsburg” in the intelligence establishment will have the courage to release documents proving that our military intentionally sought to hype and lie about the al-Qaeda “threat.”

    • Not military. The Bush administration.

      And I think there’s been plenty coming out to suggest that they did. Dick Cheney sez it’s been “pretty well established” that Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague, doncha know.

  3. The Palestinian issue is clearly the #1 (number One) reason for radical Islamist violent jihad.

    Number 2 is the treatment of Muslim men while detained by the US. Abu Ghrayb, Guantanamo, Bagram, Black Sites, rendition to allies who torture for us.

    Obama is powerless to do anything about Number 1.
    He lacks the will to do anything more about Number 2. He actually has done a little about reducing torture, but he continues to detain 90 or so men at Gitmo that his Administration has declared “innocent” (technically, “Cleared for Release.”)
    .

    • “Number 2 is the treatment of Muslim men while detained by the US. Abu Ghrayb, Guantanamo, Bagram, Black Sites, rendition to allies who torture for us.”

      So what you’re saying is that on 9/11, several years after the founding al Qaeda, almost a decade after the first WTC attack, years after the USS Cole and the embassy bombings, the second most important motivator for Islamic terrorism didn’t even exist?

      • I think the American tendency to back corrupt, oppressive Arab dictatorships like the House of Saud and Murbarak (and so many others) is the #1 reason why Muslim terrorists have turned their sights on us.

        A general anti-western, anti-democratic, anti-liberal ideology is #2. (Remember, these people are capable of agency in their own right. Not everything they do is a consequence of our actions).

        Backing Israel and the wars are way down the list. Haven’t you noticed that there have been virtually no terrorist attacks against the United States by Iraqis, Afghans, or Palestinians? It’s Saudis, Egyptians, and Yemenis – that is, residents of countries that have dictators who are our allies – who have conducted the most. Heck, the Underpants Bomber was a Nigerian, who got his training and equipment from Yemenis whose organization is led by an American!

      • .
        That’s right, Joe.
        You recognize that this is mostly a recent phenom.
        Maybe you’ve started reading foreign websites ?
        Even English translations of foreign websites will give a broader view than just looking at US sites.

        You may also recognize that the level of Arab/ Muslim antipathy toward the US went up very little when we invaded Afghanistan, because the reasons were clear, if not completely correct.
        But this antipathy shot way up when the US invaded the most advanced Arab country, Iraq, for no apparent reason other than to steal their natural resources. Whether you agree with this or not, that is what their newspapers reported.
        Arab language papers and websites are probably a better reflection of Arab thinking than any analysis you might read from SITES, JDL, or any Murdoch news outlet.

        The WSJ used to run a feature periodically that explained why Gitmo was not a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda. It presented statistical analysis of Jihadist websites and publications, counting how many times a number of different aggravations/ grievances were mentioned.
        I doubt that feature will ever run again.
        Why ?
        On the demise of OBL, his replacement Ayman al-Zawahiri specifically mentioned Gitmo Detainees, characterizing them as martyrs for Islam.
        It is his #2 grievance.

        You can doubt that all you want. Reasonable people can disagree. But I’ve presented my evidence. Where’s yours ?
        .

        • Brian,

          You make two mistakes:

          First, you assume without evidence that the motives of terrorists correlate closely with the “antipathy” of the Muslim world as a whole. I strongly disagree that the phenomenon of al Qaeda and terrorism against America is a reflection of the broader Muslim world, but rather, the actions of a small, esoteric band of freaks.

          Second, you take the words of this small, esoteric band of freaks at face value. George Bush is willing to lie about his motives in order to make his actions more palatable to the broader public; why do you assume that Ayman al-Zawahiri would not do the same? Oh, btw, Zawahiri joined al Qaeda almost a decade before Gitmo was created. He originally turned to terrorism after being tortured by the Egyptian security services. But you quote me his latest press release? I don’t find this “evidence” particularly compelling.

          Anyway, you ask me for my “evidence.” Evidence for what, exactly? I already provided the evidence for my thesis that support for dictators provokes terrorism much more than military action: the near-absence of terrorism from the residents of countries we’ve invaded, and the predominance of terrorism from residents of countries that are our allies.

        • Oh, Brian? Another problem with your theory:

          You note that “the level of Arab/ Muslim antipathy toward the US went up very little when we invaded Afghanistan, because the reasons were clear, if not completely correct.
          But this antipathy shot way up when the US invaded the most advanced Arab country, Iraq.”

          Of course, if you read either American or foreign web sites, you’d be aware that the Gitmo prison was founded contemporaneously with the invasion of Afghanistan, and not the invasion of Iraq. And yet, as you point out, the increase in antipathy came about over a year later, after Iraq was invaded.

          But that’s really neither here nor there, since antipathy among the world’s billion Muslims and the phenomenon of anti-American terrorism by the few thousand al Qaedists in the world are such different things.

  4. Lies about Lindh and Destruction of our democracy

    Article today by Lindh’s father. Lies like this were used to hype up the invasion of Iraq. The American Taliban sure was scary.

    It will be interesting to see if Lindh’s case ever gets coverage in the corporate media in the US. They fall all over themselves when a blond young woman disappears, but don’t seem concerned when the government tortures a citizen, lies to go to war, and so forth.

    link to guardian.co.uk

    To cap this off, today’s Glenn Greenwald column catalogs the abuses to civil rights just in the last couple of months in the USA.

    In “Dark Ages America,” published in 2006, Morris Berman says that a collapsing empire choses leaders who hasten the collapse. I read this during W. Bush era and it fit the bill. Now that Bush III in the person of Obama is the ruler, his point has been reinforced.

    Here is the link to Greenwald’s recent post on what has happened in the last few months.

    link to salon.com

  5. 1. Yes, widely over estimated –

    2. Yes on number two also– private contractors, limited them. This form of mercenaries is dangerous to our own nation. It gleans potential leaders advancing up the ranks in our nation’s military; they owe not allegiance to our nation’s people and undermines our nation’s military. Not even bringing to mention private contractors are not under our militaries code of conduct or rules of engagement.
    And having anwar-awlaki to lunch at the pentagon probably isn’t a good idea – it leaves the impression either our leaders don’t know who they are inviting, or for others, gives the impression they are grooming them.
    link to newsmax.com

    It also leaves negative impressions when terrorist are trained at our own American airfields – as in Wally Hilliard air field at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida. “ Wallace Hilliard, who was a Khashoggi “yes-man”, partnered with Khashoggi and Oryx to purchase Huffman Aviation in 1999.”

    “Hilliard and Huffman also partnered with Osama Bin Ladin’s brother, Yeslam, who was the main person who began funneling Al Qaida operatives to Huffrman in the first place.”

    Khashoggi was working in SLC in building the Triad Center-
    link to mormonzeitgeist.com

    4.” Support Palestinian statehood and immediate full human rights for Palestinians” — full agreement – no one likes to be held prisoners in their own home.

  6. 1. Yes, widely over estimated –

    2. Yes on number two also– private contractors, limited them. This form of mercenaries is dangerous to our own nation. It gleans potential leaders advancing up the ranks in our nation’s military; they owe not allegiance to our nation’s people and undermines our nation’s military. Not even bringing to mention private contractors are not under our military’s code of conduct, or rules of engagement.

    And having anwar-awlaki to lunch at the pentagon probably isn’t a good idea – it leaves the impression either our leaders don’t know who they are inviting, or for others, gives the impression they are grooming them.

    link to newsmax.com

    It also leaves negative impressions when terrorist are trained at our own American airfields – as in Wally Hilliard air field at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida. “Wallace Hilliard, who was a Khashoggi “yes-man”, partnered with Khashoggi and Oryx to purchase Huffman Aviation in 1999.”

    “Hilliard and Huffman also partnered with Osama Bin Ladin’s brother, Yeslam, who was the main person who began funneling Al Qaida operatives to Huffrman in the first place.” Khashoggi was working in SLC in building the Triad Center-
    link to mormonzeitgeist.com

    4.” Support Palestinian statehood and immediate full human rights for Palestinians” — full agreement – no one likes to be held prisoners in their own home.

  7. Obviously al-Qaeda is the drug of choice for the military-industrial complex. A few snorts and it’s
    load, lock, and fire at any “precise” target in an ever growing list of Muslim countries. Without the 10 or 20 “capable” leaders on the loose, the complex wiould have to go cold turkey.

    But not to worry. when it gets down to “3 or 4″, or “1 or 2″, the Pertaeus/Panetta team will somehow convince us that we must carry on. Unfortunately by this time the “extremely pissed off” (don’t know the words in Arabic) will have grown to mind boggling proportions, and the P/P team can reset the monster count to a few thousand again.

    I don’t know if I’m a “Western Libertarian or Trotskyite”, but I think Gates’ hesitation about getting involved in Libya was because is doesn’t fit into the “go there and stay there” strategy. Given the fact that we were really starting to love Gaddafi until we started to hate him a few months ago, the Libyan people might not trust our motives.

    Slightly off topic, NYT article talks about the fear Afghans have for the super secret special forces night raids, supposedly pinpointed at the Taliban. It’s interesting that after one of these raids,everyone in the target village knows exactly what happened, what building(s) was attacked, and who was killed and wounded. but that information is TOP SECRET to anyone outside the village, including the American public.

  8. If Joseph Conrad was outraged by witnessing what he called “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human consciousness”…the plunder of Africa by Europe..what would he say to the plunder of the Middle East today?

  9. The US does support the creation of a Palestinian state.

    The US does not have a clear policy of demanding citizenship and other rights for the descendants of those who left and were driven from Palestine by the wars.

  10. I say that Panetta’s statement is welcome for much more important reasons: 1) because it recognizes that the war – the non-metaphorical, military-led operation – the US is fighting is a war against al Qaeda, and not a “war on terror,” and 2) because it’s defined in a way that has a plausible end – not the complete elimination of any terror threat whatsoever, but, as Patreaus says, the elimination of their ability to conduct strategically-significant attacks on the US.

    In other words, he is saying that we are putting into actual practice the rejection of the concept of a “war on terror” and its replacement with a “war against al Qaeda,” and pointing out that we are close to ending that war.

    When Zarqawi was killed in spring, 2006, in Iraq it had no effect whatsoever on the rate of the bombings and other killings claimed by radical Muslim organizations in that country.

    That’s not really a fair example, though. Iraq in 2006 was a war zone, in which there were numerous “radical muslim organization” that had nothing to do with al Qaeda, the largest of which (Badr Brigades, Mahdi Army) were actively fighting against al Qaeda and its allies. Are you, Professor Juan Cole, of all people, scourge of the Bush administration, falling into the trap of conflating the Iraq debacle with fight against al Qaeda?

    1. Stop over-estimating it. The organization, despite having one big success at mass murder, is tiny and full of marginal personalities. It should be a concern of the FBI and Interpol, not of the US Secretary of Defense.

    Once upon a time – 9/11 comes to mind – al Qaeda had the resources of a sovereign state at its disposal, and had capabilities far beyond those of ordinary terrorist groups that are rightfully the concern of the FBI, Interpol, and the CIA. It actually was necessary and appropriate to respond militarily – indeed, it was this response that took away their control of a state, and knocked them back down to the category of an ordinary terrorist group that doesn’t warrant a military response.

    In all wars, once the enemy is dealt a crushing blow, the victor needs to consolidate his gains so that they stay crushed. Panetta is saying that we’re at that point now, and will shortly be at the point where the military conflict against al Qaeda can be ended, and we’ll go back to dealing with them as an ordinary terrorist group. Because that’s what they’ll be, and will remain, once this last little bit of consolidation takes place.

    Anyway, your points 2-4 are in no way inconsistent with what Panetta said.

    • I was talking about bombings and sniping and other operations with a clear Sunni radical-fundamentalist MO in the center-north. The US military at the time blamed “al-Qaeda” for “80%” of them. Zarqawi’s death made no difference in those sorts of operation, whatsoever. The fall-off came as a result of the Shiite militias’ defeat of and ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis of Baghdad in 2006-2007 and to a lesser extent the US counter-insurgency campaign and Awakening Council/ tribal opposition to “al-Qaeda”.

      • Yes, Professor, I get that, but nonetheless, actions like that in a war zone aren’t really the best proxy for international terrorism, or for how action against international terrorists planning to hijack airplanes, bomb discos, shoot up hotels, and park car bombs in Times Square can interdict their efforts and weaken their organization’s capacity.

        While some of the anti-occupation, anti-American, jihadi resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan has a Salafist cast, it’s really a very different kettle of fish than the terrorist attacks of al Qaeda before the Iraq War.

    • 9/11 was planned by its leader, Mohamed Atta, and others in Germany and the United States at a very leisurely pace. I think the total funding of the operation was estimated at about 500k. The whole thing could have been financed by credit cards,paying the minimum monthly amount. Atta sure as hell did not need control of Afghanistan to pull the job off.

      There was nothing about 9/11 that took extensive skills or expensive equipment – just some cleverness, a willingness to die, and enough on board muscle. I’ve read that the al Qaeda leaders themselves were surprised (pleasantly) by the fall of the towers. They anticipated far less damage.

      In my view finishing off al Qaeda down to the very last man and woman doesn’t mean that the capacity for terrorist enterprise on any scale has been diminished. The results of 9/11 were horrific, but the details of the operation, and nature of those who carried it out, were mundane and replicable (of course not in the same, now heavily protected, venue). Just look at the frequent, bloody terrorist bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan – but that’s there, not here.

      • Atta and the other leaders of the plot trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. There is much more to conducting a terrorist campaign than organizing an action once you already have the people available; you must first have an organization that makes such people available.

      • but the details of the operation, and nature of those who carried it out, were mundane and replicable

        Replicable, if you assume a plentiful supply of Mohammed Attas.

        I see no reason to do so, any more than the large supply of anti-war, radicalized activists in America in the late 60s and early 70s meant that it was easy to replace the dead Weathermen and SLA figures, or that the existence of radicalized leftists in West Germany made it easy to replicate the crimes of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang once a few of their operators were taken out of circulation.

        The physical capabilities necessary to carry out terrorism are, indeed, trivial. The personalities, on the other hand, are another matter altogether.

    • I guess your term “strategically significant” could mean different thinks to different people.

      The most strategically significant aspect of the attacks on 9/11 was the indirect threat of shutting down US commercial air travel, as a result of litigation against the airlines.

      I feel great sorrow at the horrific loss of lives on that day of infamy, but I don’t think their loss, or the loss of some buildings, or even the interruption of train and subway service was strategically significant.

      I expected the aftermath to include severe interruption of the financial services sector, but they picked up and moved forward pretty quickly.

      If you accept this argument, then al-Qaeda has never had any capacity to inflict strategically significant damage on the US. Obviously, acquisition of nuclear weapons changes everything, but I don’t think they ever came close to that, though they gamely tried.

      So, in your calculus, we never should have gone after ai-Qaeda militarily.

      ………….

      I’m afraid I couldn’t follow the part about al-Qaeda having the resources of a sovereign state at its disposal.
      R U referring to Afghanistan ?
      If so, I think you’re wrong.

      The primary attribute that distinguishes a sovereign state is the ability to protect itself from outside forces. Under Taliban, Afghanistan had no such military capability.
      IIRC, Mullah Omar offered to turn OBL over to Afghan authorities for trial if the US would present a sound case against him.

      ……………

      But I do appreciate your hallucination about Panetta setting up conditions so that Obama can declare the “War on Bogeymen” over. It is seductive. I think I will adopt it my own darn self.

      Better than that realism POV that leads to depression, in which no member of the Mil-Industrial Complex would ever allow any excuse or option for ending (or even cutting back) the “national defense” gravy train.

      • “The most strategically significant aspect of the attacks on 9/11 was the indirect threat of shutting down US commercial air travel, as a result of litigation against the airlines.”

        It was pure luck that the plane that was taken down before it could hit its target happened to be the one aimed at the Capitol. It was pure luck that the plane that hit the Pentagon didn’t come down in such a way as to decapitate the DoD.

        “The primary attribute that distinguishes a sovereign state is the ability to protect itself from outside forces.”

        No, a sovereign state with a relatively-weak military is still sovereign.

        “IIRC, Mullah Omar offered to turn OBL over to Afghan authorities for trial if the US would present a sound case against him.”

        Isn’t it pretty to think so? That Mullah Omar would have turned his partner in ruling Afghanistan, his largest funder, and his daughter’s husband over to the United States if presented with evidence that he was guilty of attacking America? A very pretty thought. And after all, if you can’t take the word of the leader of the Taliban at face value, I don’t know what this world is coming to! The man has clearly done enough to establish his bona fides, no?

        “But I do appreciate your hallucination about Panetta setting up conditions so that Obama can declare the “War on Bogeymen” over.”

        You didn’t read the article, did you? Nor anything else written the past three years about the difference between a war against al Qaeda and the War on Terror, clearly.

        • I wonder, what is it about Mullah Omar that makes his public statement about turning over bin Laden so credible to certain people?

          The great horror with which he viewed the killing of foreigners?

          Was there some heretofore undetected commitment he felt to see that those who committed atrocities against civilians were brought to justice?

          I know – after the massacre of the Iranian embassy staff, he went through a great conversion and realized that violations of international law were beyond the pale. Funny that nobody ever noticed, though.

          Perhaps he had a history of extraditing jihadists from his country that were wanted by the governments of foreign countries?

          Oh, but he said so, did he? I’m sorry, but that’s good enough for you?

  11. Just a note to let Prof Cole know that AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE
    magazine’s opposition to the Libyan intervention, (as it officially also outbid Cole in its formal opposition to the Iraqi War) does not represent “libertarian” opposition nearly as much as it represents authentic populist-right, Buchananite or better, TRADITIONAL (non neocon i.e. Israeli-owned) CONSERVATIVE opposition….

    • Thanks, Ken, for the clarity.
      I don’t think it’s very conservative to start unprovoked wars, either.

  12. Interesting back & forth. The one issue that seems to be missing in all the arguments, is the welfare of the non-combatants. Resentments, can be overcome, though some will probably take them to their graves. If one considers that since the Palestinians were excluded from their homes/land, especially after so many many years & generations, they should have a legal right for redressing the issue[s]. As for radicals, well, exactly what do you call the Israelis, especially the present leaders?

    Perhaps some of the readers can look at the U.S.A., how the Europeans settled, stole, pillaged, killed the American Indian, shoved them onto reservations, only to then steal the mineral wealth, by government blessing, which continues today. Look at how they have been marginalized. Isn’t there a similar comparison to what is taking place in what was Palestine/Israel today?

    In War, it’s the innocent, civilians, children who become the victims. The leaders, the ones who are the cause of the war, use its own citizens as shields, which the crusading forces against the Warring leaders, kill by the multitude. Victims, they are the forgotten ones. It would do many to try and reverse roles, put yourselves in the victims place, try to feel, understand, how you would feel?

    One last comment, how many of those that comment, have been in war, killed others, discovered that what you were led to believe, was really not the reason? How many carry the mental images, the feeling of why did my buddies get maimed/killed, while I survived, am alive, am scorned by the very government that sent us to fight that war?

  13. “One last comment, how many of those that comment, have been in war, killed others, discovered that what you were led to believe, was really not the reason? How many carry the mental images, the feeling of why did my buddies get maimed/killed, while I survived, am alive, am scorned by the very government that sent us to fight that war?”

    The question, Norman, is not just, as you put it, how many who comment have been in war and feel they were deceived and scorned by their own government. Rather, the question I would ask is how many who comment (as you have just done) have been in war, whether they felt deceived or accepted the rationale for war and felt the cause was just.

    Since you are one of those who have made an extended comment on the effects of war, I will turn your question on you. Have you served in the armed forces and engaged in hostilities? And further, To what government are you referring when you suggest it “scorns” those it sends to fight the war? And please provide evidence to substantiate your claim that the government scorns those it sends into war.

    • Mr Barkell, Yes, I am an ex-United States Marine Corp Veteran. As for the Government scorns the returnees, Check your V.A. history. Check the Army’s view towards those individuals who have P.T.S.D., the active duty treatment, not whether or not they get their meds, but how they are treated. Check out why Employers refuse to hold jobs for reservists & National Guard members who serve in combat, wont hire those. Why the Government treats ex-members the way they do. I won’t go into the reasons the Wars have been fought, history is doing a damn fine job of that. You want sited facts & figures? I’ll let you do your own home work. Oh, you might also ask all those Congressmen/women why the won’t provide the funds for the V.A., but continue to fund the War machine. It’s time to close down the wars, the bases, bring all the military personnel home, cut the Pentagon budget by 60% and then rebuild the U.S.A. By the way, what country do you live in?

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