Tuesday, September 5, 2006

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Are you safer than you were five years ago?

The White House just released its new National Strategy for Combatting Terrorism. Here's the punchline:

From the beginning, we understood that the War on Terror involved more than simply finding and bringing to justice those who had planned and executed the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Our strategy involved destroying the larger al-Qaida network and also confronting the radical ideology that inspired others to join or support the terrorist movement. Since 9/11, we have made substantial progress in degrading the al–Qaida network, killing or capturing key lieutenants, eliminating safehavens, and disrupting existing lines of support. Through the freedom agenda, we also have promoted the best long-term answer to al–Qaida's agenda: the freedom and dignity that comes when human liberty is protected by effective democratic institutions.

In response to our efforts, the terrorists have adjusted, and so we must continue to refine our strategy to meet the evolving threat. Today, we face a global terrorist movement and must confront the radical ideology that justifies the use of violence against innocents in the name of religion. As laid out in this strategy, to win the War on Terror, we will:

  • Advance effective democracies as the long–term antidote to the ideology of terrorism;
  • Prevent attacks by terrorist networks;
  • Deny terrorists the support and sanctuary of rogue states;
  • Deny terrorists control of any nation they would use as a base and launching pad for terror; and
  • Lay the foundations and build the institutions and structures we need to carry the fight forward against terror and help ensure our ultimate success.
  • Given the supposed metamorphosis in the terror threat, why does only one of those bullet points address the "radical ideology" that is supposedly so threatening?

    Also worth checking out -- the Center for Strategic and International Studies balance sheet on Five Years After 9/11. There's a lot of congruence between the reports -- but CSIS does have the advantage of candor. For the Democrat take, click here.

    UPDATE: On the other hand, this GovExec interview with assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism Frances Townsend seems pretty candid to me.

    posted by Dan on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM



    Perhaps nothing is more eloquently answering the question of current status than this** passage from the newly minted National Strategy for Combating Terrorism:
    ""In response to our efforts, the terrorists have adjusted, and so we must continue to refine our strategy to meet the**evolving threat**. **Today, we face a global terrorist movement and must confront the radical ideology** that justifies the use of violence against innocents in the name of religion.""

    Indeed, the threat has evolved: it has become a "Global Terrorist Movement" and we must confront the "Radical Ideology". That's taking stock.
    Quite an accomplishment.

    Any idea who writes such nonsense and calls it a "Strategy",refined?

    posted by: verbatim on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]

    Dan, maybe you can explain to me how this fits based on the President's latest statements.

    Pakistan Throws in the Towel - ABCNews

    The Pakistani military will no longer operate in the area where Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda operatives are believed to be hiding, according to terms of what the Pakistan government calls a "peace deal," signed today with militant tribal groups allied to the Taliban and al Qaeda.

    Truces fueling resurgence of Taliban, critics say - San Jose Mercury News
    The Pakistani regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been negotiating truces - with the Bush administration's encouragement - with Islamic separatists in North Waziristan and South Waziristan, mountainous tribal areas along the Afghan border where U.S. officials think bin Laden may be hiding. In return, Pakistani officials are promising to restrict the country's troops in the area to major bases and towns and to pour huge amounts of aid - much of it from the United States and other nations - into the destitute region, according to American officials.

    posted by: Scott on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]

    Make no mistake about it. Bin Laden considers te United States invsion of Iraq a gift. It is better than he could have hoped for, Rather than sergically targeting our responses we are partly responsible for the deaths of somewhere around 50,000 civilian collateral deaths in Iraq. A great advertisement for our enemy and against us. President Bush and Vice-president Cheney and Secretary Rumsefeld have given BinLaden exactly what he asked for. In an 8-19-06 Speech to veterans, Secretary Rumsfeld accused war critics of being appeasers. He got it backwards, He and President Bush are the appeasers. Before 911 in a fatwah, Bin laden authorized war against the US for two major reasons. First, because we had forces stationed in the Country of Saudi Arabia, the home of the sacred city of Mecca. The attack against us on 911 was carried out by 19 hijackers 14 of whom were Saudis. So what did President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld do. They attacked Iraq. That served nicely as a cover so they could then, about a month later, quietly, withdrew nearly all US forces from Saudi Arabia. Bush and Rumsfeld did what Bin Laden demanded. . To this day, we launch no attacks against Iraq from Saudi Arabia. B ush gave Bin Laden what he wanted. The second reason for the fatwah cited by Bin Laden is the US support for secular governments in place of Sharia law . Saddam replaced Sharia law with civil law in Iraq When President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld attacked and destroyed Saddam's baath party’s secular government and then permitted replacement with a religious government based on Sharia law as the new constitution provides in Iraq, then what Bush and Rumsefeld did was what Bin Laden wanted. President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld, have appeased Osama Bin Laden. I am sickened by their incompetent handling of our nations affairs and the blood and treasure it has cost us while Bin Laden remains free to direct further attacks against us. We are not safer. The country is running 3/4 trillion dollar annual deficits (total income verses out-go no accounting gimmicks) and we using a back door draft as troups rotate. in some cases for a fourth tour of duty. We are in a quagmire.

    posted by: michael savoca on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]

    Hmm...shorter Frances Townsend:

    "This Administration is doing a fantastic job but you people should still be crapping your pants every day."

    Is there some new definition of the word "candid" that I'm not aware of?

    posted by: Andrew R on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]

    I've got to go with Andrew on this one, the Townsend article is not particularly candid or sophisticated.

    I can't think of a single thing she said that isn't obvious to a reasonably well-educated human being who's kept abreast of current events. At the same time, she deviates not at all from the administration line, citing progress (minimal, but dressed up to sound better) learning (all obvious facts) and fear (the supposed periodicity of terrorism which has, in light of much-touted "evolving circumstances" very little data to back it up).

    In contrast, the CSIS document strikes me as rather balanced, even if it's been boiled down to bare bones.

    posted by: Adrian on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]

    One question that remains unanswered after reading the National "Strategy": Is freedom still on the march?

    posted by: Triumph on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]

    Safer in the near term and less safe in the long?

    posted by: Lord on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]

    How does Somalia fit in with "Deny terrorists control of any nation they would use as a base and launching pad for terror"?

    posted by: Ernie Oporto on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]

    Even if you agree with all of the goals enumerated in this document--and my guess is that many Democrats as well as Republicans do--it still leaves wide open the question of how best to pursue those goals. Here is where Joseph Nye's arguments about the effectiveness of soft power seem so compelling, especially in light of the many unintended and negative consequences we've already seen occur as a result of the Bush administration's decision to go the hard-power route. It's a shame we aren't hearing more Democrats elaborating a positive agenda along those lines right now, but we all saw where John Kerry's attempts to do that got him, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

    posted by: Jay on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]


    It could be that I'm mis-remembering what John Kerry was saying, but what I remember was very vauge promises to 'do better', and damned few specifics that were particularly different from what the Bush administration was already doing at the time.

    posted by: rosignol on 09.05.06 at 10:11 PM [permalink]

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