Wednesday, January 28, 2004

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Dramatic developments in Pakistan?

The Chicago Tribune breaks a big story about U.S. plans for a military offensive inside Pakistan:

The Bush administration, deeply concerned about recent assassination attempts against Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and a resurgence of Taliban forces in neighboring Afghanistan, is preparing a U.S. military offensive that would reach inside Pakistan with the goal of destroying Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, military sources said.

U.S. Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, according to sources familiar with details of the plan and internal military communications. The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified.

As now envisioned, the offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops, sources said. A Navy aircraft carrier would be deployed in the Arabian Sea.

Referred to in internal Pentagon messages as the "spring offensive," the operation would be driven by certain undisclosed events in Pakistan and across the region, sources said. A source familiar with details of the plan said this is "not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this plan to be executable, now."

The Defense Department declined to comment on the planned offensive or its details.

Such an operation almost certainly would demand the cooperation of Musharraf, who previously has allowed only a small number of U.S. Special Operations forces to work alongside Pakistani troops in the semi-autonomous tribal areas. A military source in Washington said last week, "We are told we're going into Pakistan with Musharraf's help."

Here's the follow-up from the Associated Press.

Just last week at Davos, Musharraf appeared to reject this strategy:

He vehemently rejected a suggestion that Pakistan invite a large U.S. force in to patrol the Pakistani side of the border.

"No, sir, that is not a possibility at all,'' said Musharraf. "It's a very sensitive issue.''

Pakistan has a large, experienced army and has no need of foreign forces on Pakistani territory, he said.

"We have a very strong, effective, quick-reaction force who take action whenever we spot any al-Qaida elements,'' Musharraf said.

"Everyone is very satisfied with whatever we've done. On our side, Pakistan operates. On the Afghan side, it is ISAF and U.S. forces which are operating.''

"There is total cooperation of the two sides, and things are functioning very well operationally. There is no need of change now.''

Other reports confirm this statement, with Musharraf saying Al Qaeda was "ineffective" and "on the run."

I'd offer some cogent analysis at this point, but I'm torn between two diametrically opposed viewpoints:

1) It's about friggin' time. If the biggest cluster of high-level Al Qaeda operatives are in the mountains of Pakistan, that's where U.S. forces should be.

2) Musharraf clearly feels more secure in his domestic situation than the Western media feels about Musharraf's domestic situation.

If this weren't enough for Musharraf, he's also going to face a backlash regarding the nuclear investigation. The Washington Post reports:

Pakistani investigators have concluded that two senior nuclear scientists used a network of middlemen operating a black market to supply nuclear weapons technology to Iran and Libya, according to three senior Pakistani intelligence officials....

The officials said the findings arose from an investigation being conducted by the Pakistani military's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The probe, which officials say is nearing completion, was begun after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presented Pakistani officials late last year with evidence that Pakistani technology appeared to have played a role in the clandestine nuclear weapons programs of both Iran and Libya.

As a result of the probe, Khan has been confined to his house in an elite neighborhood in Islamabad, one of the officials said, and Farooq has been in detention since late November. Telephone calls to Khan's home seeking comment went unanswered on Tuesday....

Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, acknowledged last week that some of Pakistan's nuclear scientists appeared to have sold their expertise abroad. Musharraf and other officials have said the scientists acted without authorization and have vowed to take action against those involved. That, however, could provoke a political backlash in Pakistan, where many people regard Khan and his colleagues as national heroes.

Meanwhile, this report suggests that the Pakistani government is split on what to do about this. Here's the closing graf:

Analysts, however, believe Washington will apply more pressure than what the regime in Islamabad can endure. Musharraf, they say, had been the most trusted US ally in the Muslim world since 9/11. Compelling Musharraf to do more on the nuclear issue, diplomats believe, will enhance domestic unrest against Musharraf, which might destabilize his regime. “And the US does not want this to happen - at least for the time being,” a western diplomat said requesting anonymity.

If I was CNN, I'd be locking in South Asia experts pronto.

UPDATE: The comments here and on other interesting blogs question the motivation behind the story -- did someone leak it as an act of sabotaging the planned operation?

There is another possibility -- that the leak was a conscious choice designed to flush bin Laden out of hiding. Some suggested last month that the heightened terror alert was an example of Al Qaeda trying to pulse out U.S. intelligence. This could be an attempt by the U.S. government to mirror that strategy.

The one thing that mitigates against this line of thinking is that it would have made more sense to leak such a story to the Washington Post or New York Times. The Tribune is an odd place to plant this [Which makes it more credible as an unintentional intentional leak?--ed. This is the kind of hypothesis that makes me reach for the aspirin]

ANOTHER UPDATE: Darren Kaplan has more context and background.

posted by Dan on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM


While I'd favor the strategy, I don't believe it's going to happen - and the story was planted to make sure it doesn't.

The problem we've been having, as I understand it, is (a) it's easy for the bad guys to melt away & hide, especially (b) from folks (the Pakistanis) who aren't looking for them very hard.

Operationally, then, we'd want at least some element of surprise in this operation - granted, I'm assuming that's even possible, given how penetrated the Pak military is, which may not be appropriate.

At the very least, any source who leaks this to a newspaper does so knowing it makes the operation more difficult. Which strongly suggests this source opposes the idea & wants to see it torpedoed.

posted by: BradDad on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

I agree with Brad, the ISI and Musharef just came to a power sharing agreement, why upset it now? Perhaps you should read Fareed Zakaria?

"Of all the leaders who attended this meeting, no one could be more concerned with terrorists than President Musharraf of Pakistan. They have, after all, repeatedly threatened his life. Yet his schedule of private meetings, which were mainly with businessmen, reveal his priorities: investment, growth and development."

Apparently, at least he knows how one ultimately defeats terrorism.

posted by: Blake on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

I'd rather we had a contingency plan to nab Pakistan's nukes to keep them out of terrorist hands when Musharaff goes to his reward.

posted by: Tom Holsinger on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Thanks for calling attention to this story. I'd hazard a guess that this (obviously leaked) story is a shot across the bow of BOTH Musharraf AND the jihadis in Pakistan. A way of lighting a fire under Musharraf's reluctant butt, while also indicating to his opponents (Pakistani and Arab) that we are NOT too preoccupied with Iraq to take them on, and that should they succeed in bumping off Musharraf we will not hesitate to come after them. This is the only point on which I question the CT reporter--such a plan can "only" be done with Musharraf's help. It almost presupposes he's not around anymore.

As for Blake's link to Zakaria (who I usually think highly of), this article seems so far off the mark as to be irrelevent. The US is interested in terrorism, while other countries are interested in development? Can't we read this as the US is going to provide strong leadership in the war on terrorism SO THAT other countries can shore up their economies and reform their governments? In other words, we're going to plug the dike with our fingers until the rest of the world can repair the structural problems that caused the flooding in the first place.

No contradictions there. And I never thought I'd stand up for Cheney on ANYTHING.

posted by: Kelli on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

I think the Trib article has to be looked at in conjunction with the Jerusalem Post article that speculated about U.S. operations in the lawless Bekaa Valley.

The Trib spoke of a Spring Offensive against terrorism. That seems very likely to me. On the other hand, where it might happen will be hard to determine in advance.

Because it is harder and harder to assemble forces in secret, gaining strategic surprise involves a lot more feinting. Diplomatic pressure will surely increase against President Musharraf. But also, a few days ago the U.S. demanded the Lebanese government immediately cease supporting Hizbullah.

U.S. special forces of all types are said to number about 50,000. If even a third were committed, that's a lot of operations.

The U.S. might as well get one more big hit in before November.

posted by: russ e on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

In order to conduct a military operation in Pakistan that has any chance of success, secrecy is important. I would imagine that al Qaeda has the Pakistani military thoroughly penetrated. An operation would need to be led by US forces, then bring in Pakistani forces for the mop up/siege phase (if it gets that far). The leak of the story, and the impression that the operation would then be cancelled, could also mean the operation will take place (wheels within wheels).

posted by: Phil Winsor on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

"The US is interested in terrorism, while other countries are interested in development?"

Where did he say that? He just said, "no one could be more concerned with terrorists than President Musharraf of Pakistan." Huh?

posted by: Blake on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

I have also seen some speculation (over at Belmont Club, whose speculation usually pans out), that the US is planning a spring offensive in the Bekaa Valley. Either would be fine by me, and both are badly needed by all accounts. It is possible both stories are being floated to create confusion and preserve some element of surprise for the "real" one.

I have very serious doubts, though, about whether Bush is willing start up a major new military engagement at this point in the electoral cycle. Of the two proposed missions, I think going after AQ in Pakistan is the more saleable, although the Syrians who "annexed" Lebanon (which is truly occupied territory) and their tools Hezbollah badly need a JDAM suppository.

posted by: R. C. Dean on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Umm... if this operation was supposed to be a secret......

Oh, never mind.

posted by: Bithead on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Blake asks "where did he say [that the US worries about terrorism while the rest of the world worries about development]?"

Um, duh? Where doesn't Zakaria say it? It's the friggin theme of the whole piece.

posted by: Kelli on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Um, sorry, I didn't mean to come off as accusatory. The "huh?" was just my own puzzlement.

So in the interest of civil discourse, let me introduce a bit of nuance and reframe my reading of Zakaria as "the US worries *more* about terrorism [than development] while the rest of the world worries *more* about development [than terrorism]." In other words, it is not either/or, but both/and -- a matter of degree and empahsis, which I do not think you accurately captured in your summary restatement and dismissal. That's all.

posted by: Blake on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

All the possibilities mentioned above are, well, possible. But internal enemies are not always dealt with in Pakistan by buying them off, and are never dealt with by standing aside and letting foreign military forces do all the heavy lifting.

Assume the story was leaked so that Musharraf could publicly reject large-scale American military force projection into Pakistan. To me that suggests Musharraf is preparing for a major, and probably very bloody, purge of his intelligence service, and a major military offensive against al Qaeda operatives and sympathizers throughout Pakistan as well. His moves toward cooling down the situation with India over Kashmir could also be read as preparation for this.

The bottom line is that al Qaeda seems to have allied itself with Pakistani Islamists who have made clear they want Musharraf dead. Past support for the Taliban didn't help him with this crowd, and his long sponsorship of the bloody terror war in Kashmir didn't either. What is left? It's them or him now; you don't survive in Pakistani politics by running scared.

What is the likely level of American involvement? I don't know. Some intelligence cooperation, probably, but I can't do more than speculate. Obviously if Musharraf is preparing what I think he is some al Qaeda/Taliban types may be forced to flee into southern Afghanistan, where coalition forces will be waiting. For those familiar with the pre-9/11 Pakistani argument about "strategic depth" there is an irony here. Strategic depth -- a compliant Islamist regime in Afghanistan -- was supposed to be a key element of Pakistan's defense strategy against the much stronger Indian military; if worse came to worst Pakistani forces could always retreat across the mountains. The Islamist foes of one of strategic depth's main advocates would in the above scenario find themselves without a place to retreat to.

Of course this could be completely wrong. The Islamists could get Musharraf first, or he might shrink from confronting them, or he might try once again to co-opt them by heating up Kashmir again, or he might not have enough support within the army to pull off anything like what I am suggesting. When I read people like Fareed Zakaria, though, I think of the difficulty of transforming an Iraq when the security situation remains so difficult. It can't be any easier in Pakistan, and if I can figure this out Musharraf probably can too.

posted by: Zathras on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Just a question: Is Musharraf of the sort that privately embraces what he publicly denies? I know that would put us in the area of the double smoke screen, but it could explain a lot.

posted by: steve on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

My sister has a former boyfriend she is stil in touch with. He's a civilian engineer who supports maintenance of Marine Corps choppers.

He recently referred to an increase in their tempo as "getting read for the next event".

posted by: newscaper on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

What a hoot.

I can't believe that people are falling for this. Yes, it was a planted leak, but it was planted to make sure that Binnie and the Jets got wind of it. It was not meant to get us psychologically ready for the Final Battle in the Northwestern Frontier.

Rather, it is designed to compel bin Laden to break his routine and get him moving. Bin Laden moves with a reasonably large bodyguard and medical staff, and probably some very loyal toadies, runners, and hangers on. When he starts moving, we'll know about it.

When he moves, the chances of him screwing up increase. Our best chance to get him arise when these things happen.

posted by: section9 on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

If memory serves, the Chicago Tribune published the classified details of America's "Rainbow" planning shortly before WWII in an attempt to prove that Roosevelt was plotting to get America involved in WWII (which he was.)

Given this history, maybe this is a real plan.

posted by: Shannon Love on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Well, Shannon, you have a good point, inasmuch as the boss made it quite clear in his SOTU speech.

Preemption is real, and it is the *current* policy of these United States. Those that doubt Miss Love are free to orient themselves to said document at: Stand-by....

posted by: Tommy G on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]


Yet people and goverments persist in doubting the boss.

Say, How's that working out for ya? The doubting part? The 2 and 0 part? How do you like us so far?

posted by: TommyG on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Do we have enough available troops for this? Or are we just going to declare victory in Iraq, leave the mess, and move onto the next?

This kind of thing does make me question whether this country is run by adults. But, as someone above notes, it's probably just a leak.

posted by: appalled moderate on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

How many of you pogues are serving? How many of you have family in uniform and actively involved overseas at this very moment?

Before you all get on your high horses over a planted leak in a newspaper woned by Hollinger (who also owns the Jerusalem Post and London Telegraph) spend a single moment thinking about what you're advocating. Invade an ALLY which is not only more culturally diverse than Iraq, but also has SIX TIMES as many people! Especially since we have consistently done the WoT on the cheap! To date, w have not been willing to mobilize our own resources to the point of actually winning a guerilla war in Iraq. What makes you think we'll get away from another adventure in Pakistan (or Lebanon)?

posted by: Serving Patriot on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Lets not forget Musharraf just survived two near miss assassination attempts, I would tend to agree he has a vested interest in combating terrorists, his life.

Do we have the troops? Certainly we do as this operation invisions. We arent walking hundreds, or even tens of thousands. First of all it would be logistically impossible (everything has to be brought in by air), secondly it militarilly a matter of diminishing returns. The deal is, the only way this makes a lick of sense (and the only way the pentagon would touch it with a ten foot pole) is if there is a very concrete objective here, for instance a certain village or region that needs to be locked down and combed over. Trying to do this to the entire tribal area is simply not possible, would result in a river of blood if it was tried, and wouldnt likely accomplish much. If there is a particular area that the Pakistanis dont seem to be able to penetrate, it might make sense for a sudden strike by an extremely mobile force to descend on it from all directions and lock it down for a careful search. But we are talking a few thousand air mobile troops at most, cooperating with Pakistani forces. Another thing that makes this difficult, and doing it on a large scale impossible, is that Al Qaeda and other enemies dont even have to hide. How can American troops hope to sort the wheat from the chaff in a terribly hostile environment like this? It makes no sense unless its a very limited affair.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified.----

those always bug me. Could it be Gilligan filing his first story at the new job?

posted by: Papetiger on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

If it's a genuine attack plan, then there is a traitor in the military, and they will move immediately to identify and punish the culprit. Leaking military secrets in wartime (it's a war, right?) is about as bad as it gets.

The situation is NOT fully analogous to FDR's political machinations prior to America's entry into WWII; since the US was officially at peace at the time, that was politics; this disclosure of military secrets occurred in the middle of an ongoing war.

If it's a true plan, course...

If heads roll, it's for real. If not, then the story is a deliberate plant, and the above speculations and analyses as to its ulterior motives come into play.

posted by: ras on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

A dumb question, Dan--I can't parse this sentence:
Musharraf clearly feels more secure in his domestic situation than the Western media.

Does it mean "Than the western media feel about M's domestic situation"? Surely not "Than the western media feel in their own"?

posted by: Matt Weiner on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

It's a horrible strategy. While it might catch/kill bin Laden (in time for the November election, no doubt), it could destabalize Pakistan as well. There have already been several attempts on Musharraf's life. If he were to be overthrown, a Taliba/al Qaeda sympathizer could take over and have control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Such a scenario is much more dangerous to the U.S. than is having bin Laden alive, but trapped in a cave and unable to communicate with his followers.

posted by: Zach on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

This development was discussed last week in a 'sample' strategic analysis by Stratfor - but reckoned not to be imminent. See:

posted by: Norman Geras on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Seems possible that the leaker wanted to kill the idea, but the more responsible newspapers killed the story for national security reasons.

posted by: praktike on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Serving Patriot, quick note: the Chicago Tribune is not owned by Hollinger--you're thinking of the Chicago Sun Times.

posted by: Pete on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Zach: "Such a scenario is much more dangerous to the U.S. than is having bin Laden alive, but trapped in a cave and unable to communicate with his followers."

Bin Laden is reponsible for the death of 3,000 Americans. He needs to die, regardless of the political situation. I refuse to be held hostage by "what if" scenarios.

posted by: Infide on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Maybe the story was leaked so that they won't think we're attacking ...

posted by: Hei Lun Chan on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Ah ha, here's a thought. Maybe this is a planted story, but not for Al Qaeda consumption. Kerry and Dean, along the antiwar contingent that refused to be labeled as pacifist, have settled on the meme that Iraq had distracted from Al Qaeda, and that Bin Ladin is still on the loose. So here is a perfectly terrible idea floating around that Dean and Kerry seem to have embraced, at least in a general sense. The question that reporters havent asked yet is, what exactly would you fellas intend to do to hunt down Al Qaeda? Invading Pakistan seems to be the only way to achieve what they claim is their highest priority. So just maybe this plan is out their to spark that discussion. "So Senator Kerry, you claim that Bin Ladin is our biggest security threat, and that Iraq has detracted from his hunt. Do you then endorse the plan to invade Northwest Pakistan? Well then, what exactly do you advocate?" Farfetched?

posted by: Mark Buehner on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]


Regardless of that being the intent, (I doubt it) it certainly has that rather happy side-effect.

posted by: Bithead on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Hmmm. This potential operation leak smells Karl Rovian to me. There have been numerous stories in the press regarding a renewed focus on Afghanistan. The administration is looking for a quick success story to bolster Bush's numbers and as it is unlikely to come from Iraq, they've turned their attention to Afghanistan. We've recently doubled the amount of aid and it looks like someone has been working on Rumsfeld because NATO troops are finally going to spread out into other areas in sufficient numbers to make a security difference. Catching Osama would be a nice pre-election coup. There are a number of sources of info but I've learned to trust Ahmed Rashid's Afghan related work.
See "The Mess in Afghanistan" Jan 2004 (long essay for the New York Review of Books)

posted by: M.Callahan on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Gee, I thought it was pretty clear what Dean and the other Dems advocate in terms of capturing Bin Laden. Send Squad Car 54 into the Tribal areas with a 57 Magnum and a warrant for his arrest signed by Kofi Annan. That's what a leader who actually WANTED to capture this "alleged" criminal would do.

Speaking of which, hey, who saw that sign at the Dean rally last night asking Congress to look into "how (IF) Bin Laden pulled off 9/11." While we're on the subject of conspiracy theories, was that Karl Rove's nephew or are Deanie's as crazy as they wanna be?

posted by: Kelli on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Dear Kelli,

The other day on NPR I heard an interview for a Dean volunteer. When I heard that her husband was helping out with the kids so that she could volunteer because she understood that was important to her, I applauded. When I heard that he bought her a plane ticket for X-mas so she could go volunteer in another state, I thought that was sweet. When I heard her say that this year instead of X-mas presents, she donated the kids' gift money to Howard Dean's campaign because they "...didn't need another barbie or fire truck as much as they needed a new President ..." I said "Hold on there!!! That's too far!". As a Dean supporter and volunteer myself, I agree that we need a new President ... but sacrificing the kids' X-mas isn't gonna help Dean win. We don't need that kind of fanatacism in a new President's support, or his supporters would be just as blindly loyal and oblivious to reality as Bush!!! Losing Iowa was the best thing coulda' happened to Dean - he might not become President but now if he does he'll be a sight bit better one for it.

Finally, we have to tread lightly in Pakistan. Musharaff's domestic support is not only threatened by radicals but by softening mainstream support. This new move to investigate the nuclear scientists should have been done quietly, now that it's out it'll cost him support - the scientists have great prestige within Pakistan. A large scale US military operation inside Pakistan could provoke widespread dissent and even revolt. This is no doubt what Mushareff was thinking himself when he said "Thanks but no thanks!".

posted by: Oldman on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

The Chicago Tribune is owned by the Tribune company which owns several newspapers and television stations including WGN. It's not owned by Hollinger, that would be the Sun Times. Colonel McCormick the isolationist has been dead for years and the Trib is a mainstream paper. I wouldn't attribute their printing this leak to anything other than getting a scoop.

posted by: Mark Garrity on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Agreed--supporters MUST keep things in perspective. But then, those kids are probably used to their parents' passions interfering with their attempts to lead normal lives.

As for Pakistan, of course, this is complicated too. We tried saying "pretty please" to Mushareff; we tried giving him a pot of money; we tried (I'm quite sure) showing him the evidence in private against his country's lying, theiving nuclear scientists. My hands are tied, he comes back every time. Well, bulls**t. Pakistan is not as backward as that. There is a bigger, westernized elite there than in S. Arabia, plus a legitimate force for stability in the army. Huge problems from foreign and domestic troublemakers, to be sure, but there's no sign of an imminent collapse of all authority. We are well within our rights to say to him, lead or get out of our way.

After all, it's what your man Dean would do, non?

posted by: Kelli on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

By the way, go to today's WaPo for an interesting piece on the Pakistani scientists--the millions they got for their good works from Iran and Libya, the properties they bought for themselves and family members in the country, the books and articles about their heroism (on behalf of country and religion) they paid for from their own pockets. Think about that next time you see a Pakistani protester waving one of their pictures around. Bought and paid for by Iranian WMD proliferators. Not a pretty picture (nor necessarily an accurate reflection of some deep-seated popular sentiment).

posted by: Kelli on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Dear Kelli,

I'm afraid that my first hand experience, and this piece by Slate's William Saletan indicate that Deaniacs like that woman who gave her kids' X-mas money to the Dean campaign form a large core of Dean's movement. While Dean does still have a fighting chance since he's actually ahead currently with delegates he's losing ground fast to Kerry and has to turn it around soon or will lose. DT's harping about the inevitability of a Dean victory is so much hot air. I say this as a Dean supporter. He's got to reach out beyond his core fanatical following, or it's over. There is no VP slot in his future. He needs to broaden his appeal, and please just stop hiring Gore staffers above all else.

As for Pakistan, I completely agree. Send in the special ops forces with authority to sanction with extreme prejudice orders. But do it quietly. Personally, if I was on Dean's NSC staff, I'd suggest having the Pakistani's "disappear" their nuclear staff into detention and interrogation. That's one of the nice things about working with a dictatorship. Freedom of information and civil rights are optional. That's the same advice I'd give for the record to Bush too.

But the problem here is not the policy theory, but the execution. We've got the bull in the china shop syndrome with the Bush Admin. Going in full bluster, screaming low over tribal areas with choppers, and shooting into the air as we thunder into their country coming after these guys. Announcing it only telegraphs our actions, an extreme problem I have with the Bush Admin. The problem isn't the idea, it's that doing it so provocatively in the open is practically begging for Pakistani public backlash and blowback.

Telegraphing your offensive movements is rarely a good idea when you're actually trying to nail someone's hide to a wall. Just do it, quietly, and then announce you've got the baddies. Fait accompli. And all that jazz.

posted by: Oldman on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Sending US forces into Pakistan when Musharraf is still around is putting him on the political death row. As no one has yet found an alternative to the General, its not likely that the Bush will press Musharraf's exit button.

If the report is true, it means the trigger for this intervention will be Musharraf's exit from the scene. Making this publicly known will dissuade Musharraf's successors from totally rejecting his anti-al Qaeda stance.

posted by: Nitin on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

GWB poll ratings goes up substantially during any military operation, and take three to six months to go back down to normal (about 50%) again. Short of capturing OBL, another invasion in the summer should guarantee re-election.

As for Frontier Province, if the US wanted to have troops there, it ought to move in a clandestine fashion (and I would bet there are already troops there), not with sound and counterproductive fury. American invasions of foreign countries are not suppoed to be recruiting tools for terrorists.

posted by: Ikram on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Mmm, there's plenty of juicy NY strips on the table here.

First things first; Islamism in Pakistan is an industry. The Khalid Sheikh Mohammamed lifestyle of high society hotels and harlots to conduct and plan terrorism is the Wall Street of the Islamic world. Not only do you gain notoriety, but you also get money, preferential treatment and all sorts of cover. Honestly, think wall street market wiz and the benefits that come with it and the Terrorism market has the same thing. Omar Sheikh is a prime example of this, only ironically he was on the path to Wall Street hotshot as a student at the London School of economics. You may have heard of it, but you probably didn't know it has produced 3 Al Qaeda recruits among the last 1500 graduates. Omar Sheikh was the fall guy for the Daniel Pearl murder.

Musharraf has an interest in this Islamist market because it does a few important things for the Pakistan economy. One it, that of Saudi money, pays for everything in the tribal regions, and two it finances the religious structure that essentially is somewhat like conscription. The Pak government doesn't have to pay for anything other than higher education, Defense research and 'security' for Musharraf. The security is duplicitious. If people wanted Musharraf dead they could have easily offed him when he visits the United States. When he is in the US he comes to the Chicago burbs to visit family. These burbs, which I happen to live in, are the most insecure areas in the country. There's little to no crime, but there are some government research labs where Musharraf's 'family' live way too close for comfort. Out here is Argonne National Labs and Fermilab.

I'm very skeptical about these attempts on Musharraf's life. The ad says people want Musharraf dead, but what is in the store tells a different story. While the US military may have plans to go into Pakistan, there's reason enough to do it just to get Bin Laden, but that's the last thing we need to get is Bin Laden. He's a stooge, a figurehead, a spiritual guide, but certainly no strike planner. The real threat is the Pakistani 'Defense' Industry. We don't know where the nukes are. We have a general idea where the scientists are. We can read Pakistani Nationalist literature to learn how much they love the bomb and how desperate they are to use it.

What do we have to occupy our time in the west? We have hollywood, music, games; Pakistan has Islamism. Musharraf has pledged to crack down on Islamist groups, literature, etc. When he shuts one down is most often for show. The offices close, documents removed, people arrested, but ,like the Palestinian security forces, the suspects leave the station in cars paid for with yours, mine and his taxpayer funds for nations to actually police their own state.

The US isn't going to touch Pakistan until Caspian oil is online and reliable, Iraqi oil is exporting through Israel and Vladimir Putin is re-elected. Thank you Uncle Sam for the "special relationship" with the Saudis.

posted by: axiom on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

This has all the markings of a trial balloon, not just for U.S. consumption but for the rest of the world as well, particularly Pakistan. All of the parties can play it inumerable ways.

The wires and the foreign press are not as locked into the big metropolitain dailies as are the networks and the pundits, or chattering classes. ( By the way the Tribune is a big metropolitan daily, they're just moe likely to put such a story on page one.)

This leak allows Musharraf to gauge the amount outrage such an action might generate in Pakistan, intimidate his opponents, or push them into a fatal mistake that could allow him to elimidate them. Mushsrraf could even spin the leak into a demonstration of his commitment to Pakistan sovereignity -- i.e. "I prevented the U.S. from invading Mother Pakistan, despite their desire to capture the odious Bin Laden. Remember it's me or the Americans."

The Administration can spin it any way it wants also.... It could be a feint, it could be a way to gauge domestic and international reaction, it could be shot across Musharraf bow, it could be a campaign in concert with Musharaf, it could be an attempt by one DOD faction to scuttle plans of another. We don't know.

The one thing this is not is treasonous activity by the Tribune or its reporter. This a DOD leak. The Trib has not blown the cover of a covert op. Thirty thousand troops (and their logistic support) do not a covert action make.

posted by: silent phil on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

I would be surprised if we didn't already have small numbers of "boots on the ground" there already. However, we are talking about a fairly large area, and the bottom line here is that if we do go in in a large way it better damn well be with a very very accurate intel basis leading the way. Otherwise we are faced with the choices of area occupation or to retreat empty handed only to perhaps return again another day. If this is serious, it better be based on something more than snipe hunt intel or it's likely to be a mess.

posted by: Waffle on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

At the end of the day, only one conclusion will be correct.

And all the adherents/proponents/floaters of other ideas will be liars.

That is the inescapable conclusion one draws from so much of the "Bush lied" crowd. What this discussion (44 comments, at last count) suggests is just how difficult it is to parse what is happening, when it's within a fairly transparent system, w/ reporters able to collect information w/ relatively little fear of retribution. (Let's be honest, here---if the Trib were publishing a leaked bit of REAL military planning, does anyone really think that the author would face jail time, never mind an appointment w/ a shredder?)

Now, multiply that by the NON-transparent nature of the Saddam regime, the active effort on their part to obfuscate and deny information, contradictory sources (e.g., Kurds, defectors, Shi'a Muslims) all with their own axes to grind, bureaucratic pressures within the intel agencies, pressure (explicit or implicit) from on-high.

Throw in some assumptions that nobody's really questioning: In their case, that Saddam DID still have WMD. In this case, that Osama is not only alive, but in Pakistan (arguably, a far more questionable assumption).

Still sure that whatever conclusion you drew should, if proven wrong, merit your being labelled a "liar"?

Oh, and this is on a blog. Just folks commenting. Nobody dies if you guess wrong either way. I'm sure that when you're the Prez, and you KNOW that your decisions will affect the lives of a few hundred thousand American servicemen and women, and possibly a few American cities, that you're even more cavalier in your judgement, and blithe in "lying".....

Just sayin'....

posted by: Dean on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

I'm not usually in the business of making predictions, but here goes:

US Special Forces AND small regular troop formations are already in place, watching what goes on, and if targets of opportunity arise, the judicious application of a couple of JDAMS will be in order.

posted by: Phil Winsor on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

All this takes as a given that OBL is actually in the border area, rather then safely and beardlessly esconsed in a comfy safehouse in Islamabad, London, or Paris, where he has ready access to electronic banking, etc. After all, Bush psy-war rhetoric aside, Osama was always the moneybags/funder, rarely or never the actual planner of operations.

Those videos with him sitting by the rocks were, visually, as likely to have been taken in the UK or Arizona as they were in Afghanistan. Assuming he does have this massive international network at his disposal, and assuming he's not totally stupid, it stands to reason that Osama hasn't been within 2,000 miles of the region since 9/11.

posted by: Lassiter Jones on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

"As for Pakistan, I completely agree. Send in the special ops forces with authority to sanction with extreme prejudice orders. But do it quietly"

There have been American and British special forces in Pakistan since at least December of 2001.,2763,690829,00.html

It has been kept about as quiet as it can be kept.
So here's my question to you, Oldman (I'll address this to you as a Dean supporter, I'm not implying this is your personal position). Dean claims Iraq has distracted from Al Qaeda and Bin Ladin. He claims as president he will make that his number 1 priority. Now considering that we are already doing what you rightly suggested was the most effective and wise way to operate in Pakistan, and that we have been doing it for better than 2 years, what exactly more do you propose doing to destroy Al Qaeda that Bush hasnt done? What resources are missing? How do you propose to destroy Al Qaeda? I think these are questions the opposition _must_ answer if they wish to run this country.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

In my expert opinion, this "spring operation" is a smokescreen--special ops guys already nabbed bin Laden, and after a photo-op "offensive" by special forces in April, he will be doing a perp walk for CNN.

October comes early this year.

posted by: Madeleine Albright on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Oldman said: A large scale US military operation inside Pakistan could provoke widespread dissent and even revolt.

Hasn't the old leftist meme "revolt of the Arab street as a result of US actions" pretty well been disproved? Instead, there will be added respect for the US with additional shows of action against terrorists.

posted by: Bill OH on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Madeline's name on the post, very witty. I suppose i should reply as...

posted by: Mort Kondrake on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

If the US sends troops in, Musharraf could probably survive. I think that the most likely reason for him to go is internal politics, a coup or revolution. One that probably isnt caused by US actions.

What really worries me is that if Musharraf falls and is replaced by an Islamist regime is what India's reaction will be. Things are already tense over Kashmir, with a new regime that is fundamentally hostile armed with nuclear weapons, it would get an order of magnitude worse.

There is a good chance that we could see the worlds first nuclear exchange, even if it would probably remain localised between India and Pakistan. That region is one of the most heavily populated areas of the planet, casualties would be massive.

posted by: sam on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Mr. Buehner,

You write:
"So here's my question to you, Oldman (I'll address this to you as a Dean supporter, I'm not implying this is your personal position). Dean claims Iraq has distracted from Al Qaeda and Bin Ladin. He claims as president he will make that his number 1 priority. Now considering that we are already doing what you rightly suggested was the most effective and wise way to operate in Pakistan, and that we have been doing it for better than 2 years, what exactly more do you propose doing to destroy Al Qaeda that Bush hasnt done?"

You are absolutely right in asking this question, and you are absolutely right that ANY Dem candidate has to answer this hot potatoe or be considered a light weight. I will do so as best I can in this brief format. Clarifications like battle plans would take further detailing, but here's the nutshell.

We in fact have experience in breaking into these kinds of networks. It's just that it's in the DEA and ATF and not the CIA/FBI. (At least FBI counter-terrorism. We've had the wrong guys on this the whole time. We need Treasury guys and FBI organized crime.) The DEA has to break into close-knit, sometimes familial cartels, all the time. And has had success bringing in even notorious drug lords. I know the analogy isn't exact, but the key isn't more force. We have our guys over there, but they don't know what door to knock in. This whole military upping the ante is based upon a massive invasion style sweep. It might get lucky and it might arouse allot of blowback.

We need a dedicated dirty tricks style no holds barred hitting beneath the belt infiltration programme. We need deep-cover agents, we need to start setting up shell weapons dealers and financial institution fronts (including these informal network brokers that are used to send money by proxy) to lure these people in to get at their organization. Also terroist cells have been broken before. The Jordanian secret police broke the Abu Nidal terroist group by putting the pressure on the family members. We don't have to use torture, but financial coercion, bribery, charging them as accessories in RICO type actions, detention, wiretaps - the works. That's what it takes to roll these people. Everybody's got a family.

And this is exactly what we aren't doing. I can guarentee you that. Then when you start subverting their networks, you just move on up the food chain. That's the way it works and it's the only way it works. No amount of brute force charging into a wide area of Pakistan, which is sure to arouse large-scale patriotic resistance political or insurgent will work.

And yes it's just words but it has been done, can be done, and it will work. The details of course are problematic, but I'd be happy to outline them elsewhere. We can do this, and if Dean was smart enough to hire the oldman - the oldman himself would be happy to advise or head the project himself. It's a dirty job but somebody has got to do it. For the record, I'd do it for Bush too. It ain't about partisanship - it's about delivering for America. This is what needs to be done, and we gotta do what it takes.

Now mind you, just because I believe in using organized crime and anti-racketeering methods to go after these guys I don't mean that we should prosecute them as criminals. That's an entirely different matter. Once we flip them and get the baddies, by all means send in the Marines and hose their asses or send in Special Forces to put a laser guided bullet in their skulls. We just got to put the bullseye on the right house at the right time first or else it won't work.

posted by: Oldman on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Oldman: How are your suggestions different from those of the Clinton Administration? I'm certainly not privey to all intelligence information, but from what I have read the only difference between your proposal and the Clinton Administration operations are one paragraph.

We need a dedicated dirty tricks style no holds barred hitting beneath the belt infiltration programme. We need deep-cover agents, we need to start setting up shell weapons dealers and financial institution fronts (including these informal network brokers that are used to send money by proxy) to lure these people in to get at their organization. Also terroist cells have been broken before. The Jordanian secret police broke the Abu Nidal terroist group by putting the pressure on the family members. We don't have to use torture, but financial coercion, bribery, charging them as accessories in RICO type actions, detention, wiretaps - the works. That's what it takes to roll these people. Everybody's got a family.

However, as with all criminal investigations they hinder on the one obstruction that still exists even within the Bush White House - the State Department. Whomever controls the Executive needs to really address the serious concerns of an incapable State Department in dealing with modern threats.

posted by: axiom on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

"Everybody's got a family."

Mr. Oldman,

What are you suggesting?

And, how can you switch from Deaniac to commando mode in a single morning?

Just asking.

Meanwhile, for those of you fretting about Pakistan being taken over by Islamists, I've gotta say, I haven't seen anyone with expertise saying this is a short term problem. Long term (5-10 years) yes. But if Musharraf were to go down next week he WOULD be replaced by a relatively secular high ranking army offier. As I said before, the army is NOT rotten with jihadis (yet) and there is a large, powerful feudal overlord class that has ZERO interest in Pakistan becoming the next Afghanistan.

What strikes me as odd is how NOTHING is ever said about Pakistan's sclerotic social structure (unlike, say Saudi Arabia's) and what positive steps might be taken to reform it. And, no, I am not in favor of large amounts of US money going into the sinkhole there. It's just impressive to me that, two years after Musharraf rose to the heap of our "indispensible" Muslim allies, the US media still shows so little curiosity toward the state and society he purports to lead.

posted by: Kelli on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Oldman, thank you for the thoughtful answer. The only issue I take with it is the theory that we are not doing these things right this minute. One problem is that if programs like this are under way, the only way we would know about them is if they had been exposed. Certainly Bush made it a point to tell the country that some successes would be visable, but that many wouldnt come to light for many years. All I can say is that Bush and his administration have always said that intelligence and infiltration operations were intrigral parts of the WOT. Some we hear about, such as the billions of dollars in assets that have been frozen from terrorist organizations, or the Al Qaeda cells that have been broken up around the world, even in New York state. Kalid Shake Mohammed is thought to have planned 9/11 and was captured in Pakistan via US intelligence. Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi who planned the Cole bombing was killed by a predator. Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Binalshibh were captured through joint US-Pakistani intelligence. These are only the successes we know about. Better than half of Al Qaedas top leadership is dead or captured, those left are hard to the ground. There is the possibility that we can, or have, reached a point of diminishing returns. Al Qaeda is after all only a single, and mutating, one of our enemies. The interesting point you make is infiltration, and this is without a doubt the most effective and most staggeringly difficult part of intelligence. You need native Arabs with a history that checks out flawlessly but it also trustworthy to us. You cant exactly send James Bond over to Pakistan asking to join the secret Islamic terror connection. All that takes time, a long time, especially when we have essentially started from square one due to our humint having degraded to almost nothing over the last 30 years.
That is where I think Bush is weak however. A democrat that would be willing to forgo attacking Bush as a 'liar' and instead attack him as incompetant for refusing to shake up the CIA after its failures in 9/11, and now Iraq would have a weapon that would only grow stronger as time went on. But this requires straight talk like Oldman is giving about what we need, and what kind of intelligence apparatus we need to have. The problem is that democrats have spent 20 years making the CIA into what it is today (granted they had some good reasons). It will take a major shift in Democratic policy to admit that we need a nasty, hit em below the belt intel agency like the Israelis, Brits, and French are famous for. I really dont know that Dean or Kerry have it in them to do this. I wish Bush would, because his loyalty to inept failures like Tenent is just inexplicable. Dems are missing the boat. Americans will stand for a liar but they wont stand for a failure.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Speaking of taking the gloves off, check this out, from Gerald Posner's book "While America Slept".

"Posner elaborates in startling detail how U.S. interrogators used drugs - an unnamed "quick-on, quick-off" painkiller and Sodium Pentothal, the old movie truth serum - in a chemical version of reward and punishment to make Zubaydah talk. When questioning stalled, according to Posner, CIA men flew Zubaydah to an Afghan complex fitted out as a fake Saudi jail chamber, where "two Arab-Americans, now with Special Forces," pretending to be Saudi inquisitors, used drugs and threats to scare him into more confessions.

Yet when Zubaydah was confronted by the false Saudis, writes Posner, "his reaction was not fear, but utter relief." Happy to see them, he reeled off telephone numbers for a senior member of the royal family who would, said Zubaydah, "tell you what to do."The man at the other end would be Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a Westernized nephew of King Fahd and a publisher better known as a racehorse owner. His horse War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby in 2002). To the amazement of the U.S., the numbers proved valid. When the fake inquisitors accused Zubaydah of lying, he responded with a 10-minute monologue laying out the Saudi-Pakistani-Osama triangle, according to the book."

"The last eight paragraphs of the book set up a final startling development, McGeary writes. Those three Saudi princes all perished within days of one another. On July 22, 2002, Prince Ahmed was felled by a heart attack at age 43. One day later Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, 41, was killed in what was called a high-speed car accident. The last member of the trio, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, officially "died of thirst" while traveling east of Riyadh one week later. And seven months after that, Mushaf Ali Mir, by then Pakistan’s Air Marshal, perished in a plane crash in clear weather over the unruly North-West Frontier Province, along with his wife and closest confidants, Posner writes. ",8599,480240,00.html

I think that's the kinda stuff we're talking about O.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

On the eve of D-Day there were no less than 9 different deception plans being deliberately floated past the Nazis. Some were subltle, while some were obvious, but they were all plausible and caused the diversion of time, attention, and resources from the actual landings. Given the current strategic landscape and the prevailing media atmosphere, even more 'summer offensive' scenarios are likely to appear in the ensuing months. This is a classic dis-information campaign: Hide the Truth among multiple, plausible fables.

To an old hand such as myself this means:
a) The blow will fall somewhere else [Somalia? Sudan? Arabia? Barsoom?]
b) It will come MUCH sooner than expected.

Note two emerging aspects of 21st century warfare:
1) War used to be a game that was only played on summer days. Now the US miltary is no longer remotely bound by climate or time of day - as the Taliban discovered!
2) We need fewer people than you think - especially if we do not plan to occupy the country afterwards!. 300 SF guys & a few kilo-tons of smart bombs did in Afghanistan what 4 entire Soviet Divisions [120 kilo-grunts] using genocidal tactics could not do.

Without a doubt the salient feature of the current adminstration is its committment to the Strategic Offensive in the War on Terror. Every critic seems to favor the Defensive, the failed strategic choice of the Clinton and Carter eras. They should ask the North Vietnamese Army General Staff which one is the better choice.

posted by: OldFan on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Mr. Buehner,

You write:

One problem is that if programs like this are under way, the only way we would know about them is if they had been exposed. Certainly Bush made it a point to tell the country that some successes would be visable, but that many wouldnt come to light for many years.

But then you answer in most part your own question as to why this probably isn't happening:

The problem is that democrats have spent 20 years making the CIA into what it is today (granted they had some good reasons). It will take a major shift in Democratic policy to admit that we need a nasty, hit em below the belt intel agency... I wish Bush would, because his loyalty to inept failures like Tenent is just inexplicable.

One of the classic ways to track intel movements behind the scenes is to look at appropriations. As far as the government is concerned, Republican or Democrat, generally the only way they know how to solve a problem is to throw money at it. So you follow the money trail, and in this case it's a dead end. There aren't the kind of allocations that would be needed to do what it would take - to even BEGIN it.

Plus not everything can be classified. And even classified stuff often leaks intentionally or not. The oldman has seen no footprint for the changes needed to implement the program he's been suggesting. If nothing else, the talk among the ex-spies has been surprisingly void. An irony is that many ex-spies like to keep their hands in the game or at least their finger to the wind, and I've never met anyone more interested in blurting secrets out (but in a way that makes them think it's a clever in-joke) than intel officers. So far not a bleep. In fact, all gossip and whispers have been to the contrary.

The anti-terrorism finance guys are truly a bust, as I've been able to tell. They've shut down a few high profile charities but that's it. Nothing on the informal or ethnic networks.

All the big busts we've gotten have been on mostly "high-profile" formerly known Alqueda leadership that we could squeeze foreign intel from, and we're piggy backing on foreign intel agencies. As far as the oldman can tell by putting his ear on the ground, we have almost no true domestic intel capacity to penetrate foreign networks and we're not developing any. We have neglicable access to second gen Alqueda leadership. Zip zero zilch. All the listening gear in the world can't tap into ground messenger networks.

Does that sound too outre to be true. Well it is. As you point out the intel agencies - NSA, FBI, CIA, and even State/DIA are moribund. I've detected zilch bureacratic changes that would improve the their quality. Frankly, right now I'd rather have YOU Buehner watching my back than a Quantico graduate sight unseen. I'm serious about that. Thats no exaggeration. They're nice people, but they're trained completely wrong. Gives them the wrong instincts. Plus they got that stinking law enforcement vibe you can spot a mile away. DIA and DEA are more down and dirty, but they got the serious creepy factor going on. They'd have a clue, but not quite so sure whose back they'd be watching.

So Mr. Buehner I think we can both agree that the course I've outlined is the only course of "salvation" in our dealings with Terroist threats. However I can guarentee you that despite the oldman looking under every knock and cranny and being the best fly on the wall he can, he can't detect a single sign - even significant translator recruitment - of real shift on our intelligence agencies. MI6 may be positioned better than us, and their network really sucks. If that's true ... we must be pretty badly off.

So as far as the CIA, etc. go ... what you see is about what we're getting. There is no man behind the curtain. Wish there were, would sleep better at night.

posted by: Oldman on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Dear Kelli,

"Everybody's got a family."

Mr. Oldman,

What are you suggesting?

And, how can you switch from Deaniac to commando mode in a single morning?

Just asking.

I'm suggesting exactly what it sounds like, only we don't start at extreme measures and just work up to them. On the middle to low end, it's nothing that prosecutors haven't been using for years to squeeze family members into giving up people. On the high end, I'm suggesting exactly what the Jordanian secret police used successfully to break Abu Nidal - indefinite security detentions, bribery, other dirty tricks, hitting beneath the belt and all the way up to the "unthinkable", etc. I am against random or gratitious violence, Kelli. But above all else, I believe in winning and fighting as hard as the stakes involved call for.

As for how I can switch from Deaniac to commando suddenly, it's pretty simple. Remember that until recently I was a Republican. Does that explain everything? ;-) Besides, Dean got on national television and said he'd be willing to use nukes. While I am against nuclear war, that to my mind speaks of a candidate who could be talked into a realistic attitude on what it would take to get a REAL intel agency going.

posted by: oldman on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Oldman, I think we are more or less on the same page. The only difference is I have seen no indication that any of the democrats have the stones to do what needs to be done any more than Bush does, in fact considerably less. At least Bush, say what you like about his priorities, is decisive. On the flip side, I myself have some modest eyes and ears in the SF and diplomatic communities, and i've heard somewhat more encouraging scuttlebutt, especially via the pentagon. I suspect that Bush has put his faith and muscle behind SF, even if they arent the ideal vehicle for all that needs to be done. Theyve more than proved their adaptability. I do worry we are relying entirely too much on 'friendly' arab intelligence agencies for our man on the street information. The saddest part is that the SDECE probably runs circles around both us and the Brits when it comes to the down and dirty in the region, and I somehow doubt we're cooperating much with our frog friends these days. Regardless, imo Bush took it to the next level with the Iraq war. If nothing else its scared the hell out of the Syrians and Iranians, and made the Saudis aweful nervous. That in itself is a triumph. The ultimate bottom line is there is no such thing as international terrorism without states to support it. Iraq was a bold stroke, like it or not.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP)-"Pakistan will not allow American troops to use its soil for a planned 'spring offensive' against Taliban or al-Qaida fugitives, officials said Thursday."

posted by: reflexorset on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Thanks to all for contributing to a lively thread.


A small point, really, but sodium amobarbital is "truth serum," not sodium pentathol. The former can act to disinhibit behavior, the latter knocks you out.

And to All,

Reading Richard Pipes' memoir Vixi is in many ways fascinating, not the least of which is how he reveals the workings of the rarified world of policy making, the complex politics of intelligence analysis, and the censorship of private and public governmental information.

Whereas the comments here are thoughtful and may be more or less correct, with the above in mind, it is impossible to know the motives involved in the dissemination of information in the form of "leaks " real or otherwise.

Again thinking of Richard Pipes, it is crucial to understand the systems and history of our adversaries, and to not project our own onto them. It is possible, even likely, that Musharraf is interested and capable of pursuing seemingly divergent or contradictory policies.

And no, the Democratic presidential contenders have offered no serious or substantive alternative to the WoT as currently prosecuted by GWB.

posted by: MeTooThen on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Mr. Buehner,

Well you say the Democrats may not have the stones, but this Democrat does. Yes, the oldman registered Democrat and he's not going to change back any time soon so long as the Republican leadership is laying down for Bush and co.

Iraq was a bold stroke, but as I pointed out to Kelli we have a bull in a china shop syndrome going on. Personally before the war, I publicly advocated the invasion of Iraq despite the fact that I also thought it had no WMD. However, just because I thought Iraq should have been invaded does not mean that the oldman will accept a Constitutional subversion or a botched operation. It's not what the Bush Admin tries to do that bothers me so much as that it acts like as if it knows better than everyone else, and then completely screws up the execution. Sadly the oldman projects a serious net loss from the Iraq venture any way he plays the numbers. Probabilities of a successful venture have diminished to almost nil, not because of the insurgency but because of political and economic reasons.

Competence as you point out is a powerful criticism. Note that however the oldman specifically didn't criticize SF, and in fact invoked them several times. Yes, special forces are the only group I hear rumors of that are doing anything decent at all. They're far from perfect, but at least they're adapting to the new reality adequately. However, I also hear that they aren't capable of doing the real intelligence end of the work besides some local informant development. So that long-overdue Intel Agency reform that we've just discussed is still vital. Don't matter how nifty a rifle ya got and how it can hit a tin can from a mile away, iffa you're freaking myopic and don't got no glasses!

Personally, as a former Republican willing to do what it would take to win I would suggest the Dems adopt a line like mine or better yet just hire the oldman outright. But since when were pols ever sensible? Think it's not in their DNA.

posted by: Oldman on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Dear Axiom,

You write:
Oldman: How are your suggestions different from those of the Clinton Administration? I'm certainly not privey to all intelligence information, but from what I have read the only difference between your proposal and the Clinton Administration operations are one paragraph.

You must have been skimming. I think Buehner realizes how pretty radical my proposals are. First of all, to implement them - and the tracking and rewarding performance for intel officers and analysts proposal I put to DT elsewhere - it would require firing about half the CIA, completely restructuring the FBI into three different branches (domestic crime, national security, and a counter-terrorism with active infiltration and criminal-network busting experience), adding a robust translator program to the NSA, retasking DIA operatives to work more closely with Special Forces, and other fairly radical changes.

This is by no means the Clinton policy dressed back up. It just doesn't sound radical on the surface because the details about what it would need to implement it aren't immediately obvious. We aren't doing these things now. We never have. The reason why is that it would take what I've listed above and more to do it.

As for handling State, State will just have to adjust. It can get used to having the ability to call in heavy firepower support both in intelligence and sanction capacity, or it can wither up and become a purely ceremonial / trade / treasury / commerce type branch. If it wants to be a player at the table, fine. If it can't adapt, well things change. No bureacracy has a mandate so strong as to take priority over the continued mandate of the Constitution of the USA and the American people.

Why if my plan is radical should it be adopted? Because it's the only thing that will work. If you don't want a policy of inept almost random "preventive war" lashing out at other countries indefinitely, this is the only choice America has. As Iraq showed, even wars of conquest need good intel. Before 9-11, I'd have said my plan would have no chance - too many entrenched interests. They even put out information about how it would be naive or counterproductive to track and reward performance of intelligence personnel. Okay, if that wasn't disinformation put out in the defense of bureacratic mendacity then I have never heard it ... and the oldman has heard allot of BS in his day. However, now we have a chance to save our country from the next major terroist attack. All we have to do is take on the entrenched Intel Agency status quo and win.

Even Buehner wondered why GW puts up with Tenet. It's cause he's the perfect symptom of the diseased system - both under Clinton AND Bush. Behind him, there just ain't anyone better to replace him with. Really. Intel inside politics squeeze out the best people all the time. As a matter of policy more or less. The more successful you are and the more initiative you have, the more of a threat you are to higher level managers who couldn't analyze how to change a light bulb much less rolled a single source in their entire careers. And that thought should keep you up tonight because it's dead true.

posted by: Oldman on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Oh btw Axiom,

Just as so I make it perfectly clear - you used the word "criminal investigations". I do not support treating intelligence operations as "criminal investigations". I believe in using criminal investigation techniques to penetrate and find baddies, and then having identified or located them I believe in using "hard" techniques to imprison them, roll them, or outright eliminate them up to and including using focused military force and sanctions with extreme prejudice.

I'm not particularly concerned with "building a case" for criminal prosecution. It's just the investigative tools that I advocate using. By no means should you construe my words to mean that I support treating terrorism as a crime. I mean to treat it as a life or death threat - to be eliminated by extreme means and to justify it by premptive self-defense. However it would be foolish to not use the techniques perfected by criminal investigations in order to get better intel, and be sure you were getting the bad guys before you pull the trigger. What bothers me about dropping bombs on villages is not the morality of doing so, but the embaressment of blowing up villagers and sheep when clearly we were after someone else. It's not hurting people that bothers me, it's that we can't hurt the right people. That clear enough for you Axiom?

posted by: Oldman on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - "Pakistan has sacked top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan as scientific adviser to the prime minister amid a probe into the sale of nuclear technology to Iran and Libya, a government official says."

posted by: reflexorset on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

Pak opposition slams Musharraf for sacking Khan - "Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf will address the nation over television after the Eid holidays next week to explain the need to crackdown against the father of the country's nuclear bomb Abdul Qadeer Khan and other scientists for allegedly proliferating nuclear technology to Iran and Libya."

US, Pak dread Khan's disclosures - "Khan has reportedly sent out of the country a videotape indicting successive Pakistani regimes and the military General Head Quarters in the sale of nuclear knowledge.

"The tape, carried by his daughter, will be released if he is made a 'scapegoat' for the 'collective actions and decisions of the past' according a report in the anti-military journal South Asia Tribune."

posted by: reflexorset on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

OT, but it looks like things are hotting up materially in south asia and the middle east, as they say:

ISTANBUL, Feb. 1 -- "More than 100 reformist members of Iran's parliament resigned this morning in protest over conservative efforts to fix an upcoming election."

posted by: reflexorset on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]


posted by: tariq on 01.28.04 at 10:22 AM [permalink]

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