15 November 2009

Blunderbuss

President Obama, according to press reports, is considering options for Afghanistan policy. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the current commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, has reportedly requested upwards of 40,000 troops for his counterinsurgency and 'hearts-and-minds' campaign needs. U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, himself a former U.S. general, has reportedly urged caution in expanding the Afghanistan counterinsurgency because the current Afghan government is rife with corruption and incompetence (which may be a nice way of saying the recipients of our aid and largesse are not necessarily loyally acting in our best interests). Interestingly, both reports, which were presumedly meant to be classified and for the President's eyes, came from leaks to the press.

The 'leak war' is a sideshow. The President of the United States is the Constitutional Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military. This President, Barack Obama, has a decision to make about the direction of the undeclared war in Afghanistan. He can continue along the path that was in place when he took office as urged by Gen. McChrystal (a tactical decision) or he can establish a direction of his own (a strategic decision). I urge the President to think strategically and refocus our effort on the original mission of the Afghan campaign

A brief history is in order here: On October 7, 2001, the United States and Great Britain invaded Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, an effort in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 to take out al Qaeda, the perpetrators of that terrorist assault within the borders of the United States. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld set the operation in motion. This, in my view, was precisely the correct strategic response to the 9/11 attacks.

Since that initial incursion, however, the Afghan strategy has suffered from a lack of support from Washington and from mission creep. First, it was widely reported that in their zeal to expand what they termed the 'Global War on Terror' and take the fight to Saddam Hussein, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld decided to take the focus off the Afghan campaign and launch a new front in Iraq. Second, Rumsfeld is widely credited with implementing a policy that, essentially, sought to fight this 'war' "on the cheap." Third, as a result of this neglect, the initial mission in Afghanistan has lost its focus.

Throughout the Bush years, Afghan strategy was treated as the poor cousin to the favored Iraq adventure. Political attention and military materiel were diverted from destroying al Qaeda. Meanwhile, the military mission in Afghanistan expanded to include such efforts as fighting the Taliban, supporting democratic reforms, and nation building, recently implementing the same sort of counterinsurgency measures that succeeded, at long last, in quelling the Iraq situation.

The bottom lime is that in eight plus years, the vaunted American military has failed in its initial goal to capture and/or kill the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This is a national disgrace. And there is plenty of blame to go around.

With the Iraq situation seemingly better in control, the current President has his first opportunity to do something about the situation—something he promised to do in his campaign. By all accounts, he has now turned his—and the country's—attention back to the conflict in Afghanistan. He should refocus on what was just and right about the Afghan campaign from the start. The military must accomplish its central mission: destroy al Qaeda. Then, and only then, should they worry about the rest—much of which can be dealt with politically and diplomatically.

Strategically, the Afghan campaign and, in my view, the entire 'Global War on Terror' should have been a surgical strike. Go in, find the perpetrators of 9/11 in their lairs, and take them out. End of story. Instead, the prior administration fired off what amounted to a blunderbuss: a noisy, blunt, and crude weapon lacking in accuracy or range. Its effort in response to 9/11 was too scattershot. They allowed their own political interests and ideologies to intervene, and they missed their true target. They wanted to get Saddam Hussein for peripheral reasons which they never convincingly articulated. This took the focus off Afghanistan, and we now find ourselves as occupiers in a country known as the place where empires go to die. And we still haven't gotten Usama bin Laden.

I urge Predsident Obama to refocus his, the nation's, and the military's attention on the true mission of the conflict in Afghanistan. His generals will continue to urge him to provide them with greater authority, a larger mission, and more materiel and troops. These are tactical requests and should be taken as such. The President's duty as Commander-in-Chief is to think strategically. He must define the mission and then, and only then, allocate resources accordingly. The generals' job is to implement this strategy. And the only just, strategic mission is to sew up al Qaeda and their enablers and supporters, get bin Laden, and get out. It was the correct strategic mission in 2001, and, despite nearly a decade of neglect and mismanagement, it is the correct mission now.

11 comments:

Steven Augustine said...

"The bottom lime is that in eight plus years, the vaunted American military has failed in its initial goal to capture and/or kill the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon."

Jim: I got an anonymous tip that they should look in Texas.

Jim H. said...

Seriously?

I've tried to follow the LIHOPs vs. the MIHOPs, and yes UBL seems like a convenient patsy in the mode of LHO & JER. But it still seems a bit far-fetched.

Did those in power make a power grab, using 9/11 as a cover? I have no doubt. Were they caught with their pants down? Again, it seems highly likely.

I'm simply not convinced they were in league with the bad guys.

Best,
Jim H.

Steven Augustine said...

Jim!

I see this as a matter of two (essentially speaking) narratives: first, the "normative" (scare quotes here to quote *me*) narrative, which proposes that an astronomically improbable concatenation of unusual events allowed 19 guys with box-cutters and absurdly inadequately flight-training to hijack four jetliners, use one of them to penetrate the most powerfully-defended airspace on the planet (the Pentagon's) with zero resistance, fly two of the jets with super-human skill (executing maneuvers that, literally, scores of seasoned pilots have gone on record evaluating as impossible) to hit their targets with, again, no interference from fighter jets, despite being in the air following rogue flight plans for a very long time... causing (among other miracles like unmussed Pentagon lawns and a vaporized plane in Pennsylvania) three skyscrapers to mimic, perfectly, collapse conditions that could otherwise only be explained as effects of controlled demolition, despite the fact that only two were hit by jets. And so on.

The second narrative proposes the events under discussion as being another project in a long line of so-called "False Flag" missions perpetrated by a government (going back at least as far as "Remember the Maine!") to persuade its masses of the honor, necessity and inevitability of waging a particular war/crusade.

Neither narrative is backed by infallibly trustworthy sources.

But ask yourself this: what is "WAR"? It's my feeling that a vigorous analysis of the meanings/uses/outcomes of the *actual practice* (vs the sentimental PR) of WAR leads us to conclusions that undermine the credibility of Narrative One.

Steven Augustine said...

For example, do you think this woman is, by default, somehow less credible than any particular supporter of Narrative One?

***A Pentagon eye-witness and a former member of the staff of the Director of the National Security Agency,Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, PhD, U.S. Air Force (ret), is a severe critic of the official account of 9/11. A contributing author to the 2006 book 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, edited by David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, she wrote, “I believe the [9/11] Commission failed to deeply examine the topic at hand, failed to apply scientific rigor to its assessment of events leading up to and including 9/11, failed to produce a believable and unbiased summary of what happened, failed to fully examine why it happened, and even failed to include a set of unanswered questions for future research.”

She continued, “It is as a scientist that I have the most trouble with the official government conspiracy theory, mainly because it does not satisfy the rules of probability or physics. The collapses of the World Trade Center buildings clearly violate the laws of probability and physics.”

Lt. Col. Kwiatkowski was working in the Pentagon on 9/11 in her capacity as Political-Military Affairs officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense when Flight 77 allegedly hit the Pentagon. She wrote:

“There was a dearth of visible debris on the relatively unmarked lawn, where I stood only minutes after the impact. Beyond this strange absence of airliner debris, there was no sign of the kind of damage to the Pentagon structure one would expect from the impact of a large airliner. This visible evidence or lack thereof may also have been apparent to the Secretary of Defense [Donald Rumsfeld], who in an unfortunate slip of the tongue referred to the aircraft that slammed into the Pentagon as a ‘missile.’ [5] … [Secretary Rumsfeld also publicly referred to Flight 93, which allegedly crashed into the ground near Shanksville, PA, as the plane that was ‘shot down’ over Pennsylvania. [6] ]

“I saw nothing of significance at the point of impact - no airplane metal or cargo debris was blowing on the lawn in front of the damaged building as smoke billowed from within the Pentagon. ... [A]ll of us staring at the Pentagon that morning were indeed looking for such debris, but what we expected to see was not evident.

“The same is true with regard to the kind of damage we expected. ... But I did not see this kind of damage. Rather, the facade had a rather small hole, no larger than 20 feet in diameter. Although this facade later collapsed, it remained standing for 30 or 40 minutes, with the roof line remaining relatively straight.

“The scene, in short, was not what I would have expected from a strike by a large jetliner. It was, however, exactly what one would expect if a missile had struck the Pentagon. ... More information is certainly needed regarding the events of 9/11 and the events leading up to that terrible day.” ****

Frances Madeson said...

All one needs to know about the 9/11 Commission and its Report is that the Executive Director of the Commission was Philip “I Didn’t Keep A Single Copy of My Alleged Anti-Torture-Memo Memo” Zelikow.

Might this space, that can be measured in Jim’s incredulity at the suggestion that the same men who brought us torture as an official U.S. policy might plausibly have had a role to play in prior evildoing, be a kind of critical distance? The last bit of resistance before we allow ourselves to acknowledge and feel the pain of just what a losing proposition being an American has actually already become.

Steven Augustine said...

Comrade Frances!

It's only a losing proposition if we allow the Foisters of Loss to define the terms. I say we do as Patrick McGoohan did and remain single-minded pig-head pains-in-the-arse who define their own terms using their own dictionaries... even when we see that balloon coming!

Frances Madeson said...

Ever seen a weeping cherry tree in blossom? I'd like to make a few additions to the landscaping just outside the Pagoda for even more scenic balloon gazing.

Jim H. said...

Steven & Frances,

It's good to have your voices weighing in here again.

Let me try to articulate my own position. Let's assume for purposes of argument there was indeed supposed to have been some sort of 'Tonkin' type provocation—call it 'false flag' or whatever—by certain elements. And let's assume—this is my contribution here for purposes of plausibility—they intended it as a much milder attack using cut-outs and agents provocateurs, one that could be contained, explained and responded to in predictable ways ('takin' Saddam out'). And let's assume their patsies were infiltrated by some seriously bad dudes who had a beef with the planners. That is, let's assume they were double-crossed by a smaller, truly committed cabal within the set of perpetrators. In other words, something else was supposed to happen and the plan got out of hand and the plotters were caught with their pants down.

Sounds like a Clancy plot, eh?

That's all well and good, but I can't really buy the whole package. The number of high-level conspirators (plotters) would have to be of sufficient size to contain all information. Information wants to be free. Secrets will out. The double-crossers would now be able to make their victory known. Someone (a Condor) would come across aspects and piece things together. Rogue elements would demand blackmail. People with insider knowledge would panic and start taking out anyone they distrusted.

In other words, the size of the conspiracy, the amount of information, etc. would be too great to contain.

Also, the number of people who would have to be 'in on' the coverup would be staggering and filter down from the shadow gov't to institutional gov't types in the military, in the intelligence services (all of them), at Justice, in the WH, in Congress, at the FAA, the local first responders, the hospitals, bystanders, etc., etc. The list goes on and on.

I respect your views. It is important always to question authority. I don't believe we have the whole story—asses were/are certainly being protected, particularly those of the officials who had their fingers up theirs prior to the attacks. I just don't believe something of the size necessary for a MIHOP conspiracy and the subsequent bottling up of all information could be effectively concealed. On the other hand, a LIHOP (where 'it' = something somewhat less than what actually transpired was intended) has some plausible elements.

Bottom line: I don't know (and neither do you). But I don't assume that just because I'm a rank outsider that there are some insiders who do know and are trying to pull one over on me. And because I don't know—that is, I am unburdened by knowledge of all the facts—I am free to speculate and interpret what few facts I am privy to however I choose. As are we all.

Best,
Jim H.

Steven Augustine said...

Jim!

We both know this is one of those debates that chases its own tail (while fucking up the living room) so, I promise this is my last word on it (laugh):

1. Hey, I'm *easy* to ignore on this issue; I'm interested in your rebuttal of the points made by "Director of the National Security Agency,Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, PhD, U.S. Air Force (ret)"!


2. "And let's assume—this is my contribution here for purposes of plausibility—they intended it as a much milder attack using cut-outs and agents provocateurs, one that could be contained..."

I wouldn't assume that at all; I'd assume that anyone wanting a blank check to start an otherwise terribly unpopular war and neuter the Constitution and kick-start a thousand-year reich would be going for a knockout punch of spectacular (Spielbergian) dimensions. Also, that any genuine "terrorists" involved would be Lee-Harvey-Oswald-like patsies who'd have no idea who they were really working for.

3. "In other words, the size of the conspiracy, the amount of information, etc. would be too great to contain."

Jim, may I submit that by that reasoning, any pivotal secret war maneuver could be considered a "conspiracy... that would be too great to contain"; yet, I'm sure the major opposing players in (name your war) managed to keep some of these rather large secrets from each other, and their own citizens, obviously, long enough to win whatever battle/war.

If you can accept the notion that every major national player on the globe is capable of keeping important secrets (some rather dirty) from each others' professional code-cracking agencies, I think it's not difficult to imagine keeping the same secrets from Jane and Joe Public, eh?

The kind of de facto transparency you're placing as the bedrock of your argument runs counter to the very point of having a Mossad or an NSA or a CIA or a KGB; what's the point of an Intelligence Agency that can't keep the biggest secrets secret? And what's the point of even *naming* (and printing official stationery for) the branch that would be in charge of the dirtiest tricks? The question would therefore be: are a nation's Intelligence/Warmaking capabilities ever used against its own citizenry? History says "yes".

Besides which: in what sense has the 9/11 conspiracy been "contained"? Here we are discussing it openly in your comment thread! Laugh

Frances Madeson said...

"I don't believe we have the whole story..."

And how convenient that Literary Blarney is obliging with a great diversion in the form of a National Book Award for the aptly named "Let the Great World Spin." Let's just remember the warmer, fuzzier time before all this difficulty crept into our lives, and lose ourselves in a tale that “offers through his [McCann's] generosity [uh-oh!! big, red flag!!!] of spirit and lyrical gifts an ecstatic vision of the human courage required to stay aloft above the ever-yawning abyss”.

Well, they got the ever-yawning abyss part right.

RevitaDerm Wrinkle Cream said...

Interestingly, both reports, which were presumedly meant to be classified and for the President's eyes, came from leaks to the press.