Frum on Clarke
David Frum makes a series of points that have mostly been made on OTB and elsewhere on around the blogosphere, but their collection into a single package is useful.
I do think it was rather petulant of Richard Clarke to complain on Ã¢€œMeet the PressÃ¢€ that the administration is out to Ã¢€œdestroyÃ¢€ him. Clarke hurls a series of terrible accusations at the administration and its senior staff Ã¢€“ and is then outraged when they reply that Clarke is wrong? Or when they point out that what he says today contradicts what he has said in the past? Or that he might possibly have other motives than those he acknowledges? Or when they note that he seems strangely tolerant of far worse mistakes by the previous administration?
(Steven Taylor said this a couple days ago.)
This administration came into office to discover that al Qaeda had been allowed to grow into a full-blown menace. It lost six precious weeks to the Florida recount Ã¢€“ and then weeks after Inauguration Day to the go-slow confirmation procedures of a 50-50 Senate. As late as the summer of 2001, pitifully few of BushÃ¢€™s own people had taken their jobs at State, Defense, and the NSC. Then it was hit by 9/11. And now, now the same people who allowed al Qaeda to grow up, who delayed the staffing of the administration, who did nothing when it was their turn to act, who said nothing when they could have spoken in advance of the attack Ã¢€“ these same people accuse George Bush of doing too little?
(Noted here Saturday.)
Hat tip: Steve Bainbridge
Update: To clarify, my point in citing Frum here isn’t so much that Clinton didn’t do anything, but that it’s peculiar that Clarke seems obsessed by what Bush didn’t do in a far shorter period without the direct provocations that occurred under Clinton. I’ve said several times that I don’t think we could have launched a war to remove the Taliban prior to 9/11. With the exception of terrorism specialists, virtually none of the national security policy community–including myself as a peripheral member–thought terrorism was THE top priority pre-9/11.
The crux of Clarke’s argument seems to be that the Clinton team was focused like a “laser” on terrorism whereas Bush and Co. were totally oblivious to it because they were obsessed with Iraq. There’s scant evidence for either of these points. Clinton occasionally talked tough on terrorism and even declared war on it. But aside from a token military strike, the action was mainly a traditional law enforcement counter-terrorism policy. It’s less clear what the Bush policy was before 9/11 since there were no attacks to which he could have responded.