Two Imaginary Meetings

In an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning former White House counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke narrates two imaginary meetings. One of these meetings takes place in Rawalpindi, Pakistan among Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, leader of the Afghan Taliban, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, and the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba. They note the strategic problems that the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the United States present for the United States in combatting them. That meeting concludes with a little implicit praise for President-Elect Obama and a warning:

A long pause follows. Bin Laden breaks it, speaking softly, looking at the rug beneath him. “I fear this Barack is not as weak as you think, doctor. Already, many of the faithful are ready to forgive the Americans their sins just because they have chosen him as their leader. It is a setback for us.” Bin Laden raises his head, and a wry smile passes briefly over his face. “But . . . his economy is badly ill. If it gets much worse, he will have to bring all of his troops home. So . . . we may have to increase their pain level. We have done that before.”

The second imaginary meeting is one among members of the National Security Council in the west wing of the White House. It notes the virtually insurmountable obstacles to achieving victory in Afghanistan.

Mr. Clarke concludes his op-ed:

Seven years after 9/11, the United States has neither eliminated the threat from al-Qaeda nor secured Afghanistan, where bin Laden’s terrorists were once headquartered. To accomplish these two tasks, we must now eliminate the new terrorist safe haven in Pakistan. But that will require effective action from a weak and riven Pakistani government. It might also depend upon dealing with the long-standing India-Pakistan rivalry. On balance, al-Qaeda’s agenda for 2009 looks to be the easier one.

The op-ed itself is mild, even banal. However, it presents a wonderful example of how the known facts can be distorted through the mode of presentation.

We don’t know what the operational links between the various Islamist organizations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India are. I doubt very much whether a meeting of the sort that Mr. Clarke describes taking place in Rawalpindi has ever or would ever take place. For dramatic impact it’s fine.

But the link to the op-ed in the online version of the Washington Post at least is placed above a photograph of the single terrorist captured in Mumbai last week. The teaser to the op-ed is “Envisioning the next chapter in the shadow war between the U.S. and al-Qaeda.”. The combination of the two creates the impression that there is a known operational connection between the attacks in Mumbai and Al Qaeda which is decidedly not the case.

The attacks in Mumbai apparently exhibit similarities to those used by the Naxalites, a native Indian communist organization. The Indian authorities have blamed the attacks on the Pakistani ISI. Statements in the press have linked the terrorists to the LeT while the widely used phrase “India’s 9/11” creates the impression that there’s a link between the attacks and Al Qaeda.

Dangerous as operational links among all of these terrorist organizations might be, frankly, I doubt that they exist in any really tangible form. There is no terrorist central command.

What may be the reality is even more disquieting: these are disparate groups that share a common philosophy, share at least some common objectives, and certainly share a willingness to kill to achieve those objectives. There is no master stroke, no decapitation strike, or even a simple strategy that will deal with all of them at the same time.

FILED UNDER: General, , , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    What may be the reality is even more disquieting: these are disparate groups that share a common philosophy, share at least some common objectives, and certainly share a willingness to kill to achieve those objectives. There is no master stroke, no decapitation strike, or even a simple strategy that will deal with all of them at the same time.

    There is also something you fail to mention. IN reality, there is also no purely political / governmental solution. Meaning of course, to sole the issue the military is needful.
    And of course most disquieting of all… we have a Democrat in the White House and a congress full of them… neither one of which thinks the Military is the answer.

  2. Eric says:

    Bithead writes:

    IN reality, there is also no purely political / governmental solution.

    Oh, yes, Bit… war is not political at all. It’s just something you do when you’re bored.

    Hmm… I wonder who said:

    “”War is the continuation of policy (politics) by other means.”

    and

    “It is clear that war is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means”

    But what does Clausewitz know? He was probably some uber-liberal anyway.

    we have a Democrat in the White House and a congress full of them… neither one of which thinks the Military is the answer.

    Whereas Bitsy of course thinks that war is the only answer. No wonder you guys got booted.

  3. Eric says:

    And in any event, Bitsy, I think “events on the ground” have pretty much demonstrated that the military is not the solution to terrorism. Politics and diplomacy are.

  4. Drew says:

    “There is no master stroke, no decapitation strike, or even a simple strategy that will deal with all of them at the same time.”

    Sure there is, Eric just told you. You all convene in Zurich, pour some Pellegrino, and reason with them. You know, c’mon osama, “can’t we all just get along?”

  5. Eric says:

    Sure there is, Eric just told you. You all convene in Zurich, pour some Pellegrino, and reason with them. You know, c’mon osama, “can’t we all just get along?”

    See, Drew, it’s your simplistic binary worldview that got you and your crew booted. Are there simply no alternatives for you bozos other than smashing or hitting? Of course not. So you come up with your little slogans to paint any idea other than a military strike as sympathizing with the terrorists, or the like, when no one even suggested that.

    No one–Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, black or white, peanut butter or chocolate, Sonny or Cher–has ever, at any point, in any respect, advocated sitting down with the terrorists for a feel-good talk. Since you’re so confident that that’s what the imaginary “some” want to do, perhaps you would be good enough to provide a few links to back up your assertion. But of course, there are no links to fantasy land. So I won’t wait for any.

    To the contrary, by “diplomacy,” serious adults mean enlisting the aid of other governments to combat not just terrorists themselves but also the roots of terror. You can’t send an army in to do that.

    By the way, I have no idea where your quote comes from. I guess I can only assume it comes from Fox’s “24,” nutjob conservatives favorite guidebook to fighting the so-called “War on Terror.”

  6. Bithead says:

    Oh, yes, Bit… war is not political at all. It’s just something you do when you’re bored.

    You apparently have forgotten… the line between the two was drawn by those who informed us there was no military solution.

    See, Drew, it’s your simplistic binary worldview that got you and your crew booted. Are there simply no alternatives for you bozos other than smashing or hitting? Of course not.

    OK, you tell us. with whom do you propose to negotiate, and what do you propose to negotiate away, remembering the two options given us; Islam or death.

  7. Drew says:

    Save your kindygarten invective for your sewing circle, Eric.

    It was you who made the simple minded assertion that the military had no role, that “politics and diplomacy” were the solution. If you care to tell us how “politics and diplomacy ” are actually going to accomplish our ends, please do.

    But it must be more than the fluffy stuff Monty Python used to pillory in their “How to Do It” skit.

  8. Eric says:

    You apparently have forgotten… the line between the two was drawn by those who informed us there was no military solution.

    This is a straw-man argument on your part. You’ve presented false alternatives, when in fact no one ever said the military shouldn’t be used. The discussion is and always has been what can be achieved by military force and what diplomatically. It is clear that “winning” the so-called “War on Terror” will not be achieved by military force alone, or even in large part. Or do current events in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

    See, Bit, what you and your ilk simply do not understand is that when you march in somewhere with troops, occupy land, and kill innocents you only breed more killers. Do I have to cite England and it’s 100-year fight with the Irish as but one example?

    The solution to terrorism is not becoming like them. The solution is bringing diplomatic pressure to bear and enlisting other governments to unite and stamp out terrorism through as peaceful means as possible. This doesn’t mean sitting down with the terrorists over Pelligrino like your idiot friend Drew thinks; rather, this means creating conditions under which anger and resentment aren’t allowed to breed or fester–through better education, opportunities for the disaffected, etc.

    Sure, there are terrorists who will need to be killed. But that hasn’t worked out so great after trying your method first (i.e., sending in troops). I mean, for chrissakes, even our military leadership believes force is not the ultimate solution to the problem.

    At what point will this get through your thick skulls, I have no clue. In the mean time, you bozos would set up straw-man arguments and paint everyone who disagrees with asserting military force as traitors or terrorist sympathizers. I guess in you’re simplistic black-and-white world, shades of gray are too much trouble, huh?

    OK, you tell us. with whom do you propose to negotiate, and what do you propose to negotiate away, remembering the two options given us; Islam or death.

    Do I really have to answer this? You really have no clue? You negotiate with heads of state. We negotiate all the time with other countries and promise, for example, economic incentives. And you therefore don’t necessarily “negotiate away” anything, because in the end everyone winds up winners if terrorism is curtailed without creating more terrorists.

    Islam or death are our only options? Says who? I say we “slip between the horns” or create a third alternative rather than constrict ourselves to the very artificial (and false) alternatives you seem to think were presented to us.

  9. Eric says:

    It was you who made the simple minded assertion that the military had no role… .

    I made no such assertion, nor even suggested as much. Rather, you *implied* that I must believe that in your sarcastic initial reply to me.

  10. Bithead says:

    This is a straw-man argument on your part.

    You’ve presented false alternatives, when in fact no one ever said the military shouldn’t be used.

    Really? HOw else am I to take…

    See, Bit, what you and your ilk simply do not understand is that when you march in somewhere with troops, occupy land, and kill innocents you only breed more killers. Do I have to cite England and it’s 100-year fight with the Irish as but one example?

    Yours is a crcular argument, and one that totally ignores the reality we face.

    You negotiate with heads of state

    Only one problem, Eirc; the ones attacking us are not operating as a part of a state, per se.

    At what point will this get through your thick skulls, I have no clue.

    Actually, we figured THAT little tidbit out a while back. And you’ve done nothing to alter that perception, here.

  11. Eric says:

    Really? HOw else am I to take…

    If my meaning was unclear at first, I’ve clarified it enough in further replies above. But let me restate it one more time: military force is neither the sole nor ultimate answer to our problem with terrorism. It has it’s place, but not in the way we have used it in Iraq, or forgotten to use it in Afghanistan.

    Yours is a c[i]rcular argument, and one that totally ignores the reality we face.

    If you misunderstood my original assertion, then how can your statement here be correct? And exactly what “reality” am I ignoring? The one in which we are clearly NOT winning by military force alone? Or is there another reality you’re referring to?

    Only one problem, Eirc; the ones attacking us are not operating as a part of a state, per se.

    See, you still don’t get it. You’re so trapped in your binary worldview that you can’t even see the plain meaning of my words. You don’t negotiate with the terrorists, Bit. You enlist other countries to help combat terrorism and prevent it from growing via economic incentives, education, etc. You don’t win hearts and minds by invading a Muslim country that had nothing to do with 9/11, then dropping the ball in the country you rightfully invaded (i.e., Afghanistan) and not even capturing Osama. (Oh, surprised I supported the Afghanistan invasion? Guess you don’t know me that well after all.) How much plainer can I get?

    And you’ve done nothing to alter that perception, here.

    I doubt you have the ability to change your mind, Bit. Indeed, I seem to recall many of you conservatives priding yourselves on apparently never having wavered on any issue at any point in your lives ever. Shows consistency, right?

  12. Bithead says:

    You don’t negotiate with the terrorists, Bit. You enlist other countries to help combat terrorism and prevent it from growing via economic incentives, education, etc.

    Well, let’s see. You seem to feel that governments are unified. Clearly, that’s not the case in many of these. Let’s take Pakistan, as an example.

    We WERE offering incentives to Pakistan. That’s exactly what Bush had us doing. How’d that work out?

    I doubt you have the ability to change your mind, Bit.

    Oh, but of course I do.
    Initially, I figured you had some brainpower.
    I’ve changed my mind on that point.

  13. anjin-san says:

    We WERE offering incentives to Pakistan. That’s exactly what Bush had us doing. How’d that work out?

    You mean Bush, who does not know his ass from his elbow, screwed up yet one more time? That is a real shock.

    The fact that an incompetent cannot carry out a policy does not necessarily mean the policy is wrong, it means that you should not elect incompetents to the Presidency.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Initially, I figured you had some brainpower.

    You mean the kind you displayed by parroting Hannity & and Morris’ nonsense about how McCain was really winning two days before the election?

    Polly want a cracker?

  15. andrew says:

    “You don’t win hearts and minds by invading a Muslim country that had nothing to do with 9/11, then dropping the ball in the country you rightfully invaded (i.e., Afghanistan) and not even capturing Osama.”

    You do realize that 9/11 didn’t happen in a vacuum, right? It was a symptom of a larger problem.

    And as for dropping the ball in Afghanistan just because you got bored with it doesn’t mean anyone dropped the ball. And just because the media hilariously claims for the millionth time that AQ and the Taliban are “resurgent” doesn’t make it so.

  16. anjin-san says:

    It was a symptom of a larger problem.

    A problem that we probably made worse by invading Iraq.

  17. Bithead says:

    You mean Bush, who does not know his ass from his elbow, screwed up yet one more time? That is a real shock.

    The fact that an incompetent cannot carry out a policy does not necessarily mean the policy is wrong, it means that you should not elect incompetents to the Presidency.

    The policy is the issue.

    You mean the kind you displayed by parroting Hannity & and Morris’ nonsense about how McCain was really winning two days before the election?

    You might wanna go and read again what I actually said, there, Anjin. I mean, not to let mere facts intrude, but… try them… just this once.

  18. Eric says:

    And as for dropping the ball in Afghanistan just because you got bored with it doesn’t mean anyone dropped the ball. And just because the media hilariously claims for the millionth time that AQ and the Taliban are “resurgent” doesn’t make it so.

    I’m sorry, *I* got bored with Afghanistan? I made the decision to invade Iraq and “forget” about Osama? Afghanistan *isn’t* lapsing back into instability? Top military leaders aren’t calling for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan? Even just today?

    So, you find news reports everywhere saying Al Qaeda and the Taliban are resurgent to be hilarious, huh? Yeah, that media. Always making stuff up. Always a worldwide liberal conspiracy with you bozos.

    In poll after poll, the American public believes by a wide margin that things are not going very well in Iraq or Afghanistan. And they voted as much when they kicked your crew out in November. But apparently they’ve been fooled by a worldwide liberal media conspiracy, huh?

  19. andrew says:

    “A problem that we probably made worse by invading Iraq.”

    Probably? Well I guess when you have zero tangible proof ‘probably’ will be the best you can come up with.

    “So, you find news reports everywhere saying Al Qaeda and the Taliban are resurgent to be hilarious, huh? Yeah, that media. Always making stuff up. Always a worldwide liberal conspiracy with you bozos.”

    Yeah they are hilarious, if only I had a nickel for each time I’ve heard how “resilient” or “resurgent” the Taliban and AQ are the last 7 years I’d be rich. Ever read the one about the boy who cried wolf?

    There’s no conspiracy it’s out in the open, as of January 20th of next year the occupant of the White House will have a D next to his name instead of an R and all narratives will be a changin’

  20. anjin-san says:

    Let’s pause a moment and take another look at one of Bitsy’s patented Pearls ‘O Wisdom:

    The patterns are all there for a landslide for McCain; This is 1968 all over again.

    What happened then shows all the signs of happening this year in Denver. In OBama and Clinton we have two candidates whose political and family roots are deep in liberal Chicago politics. We have a very notably liberal Republican in McCain. We have a Democrat party nomination fight between two fairly closely matched Democrat candidates whose Democrat supporters each would never vote for the other candidate. We have rumors of every left-wing crazy on the planet who can hitch a ride, in Denver for the convention, to protest the war. This Clinton Obama thing will be close enough that the party leadership will be forced to take a hand in the decision.. and there are already signs that any choice they make won’t be popular. Is there any conclusion but that the resulting breakup of the Democrats in 08 was will be of legendary proportions?
    Posted by Bithead | July 5, 2008 | 11:44 am |

    You sure can calle them bubba. Its amazing that anyone even has the balls to question you πŸ™‚

  21. anjin-san says:

    You know, this stuff is so classic, I just have to post more of it:

    I’ve been saying for months now that Obama never gain the real support of the party faithful, in full, and so would never win the GE. Beginning to look like I called it.

    Interesting, since I’m also on record as saying Clinton would never get the nomination. The split we saw between Clinton and Obama is now if anything deeper than it was a few months ago.

    Obama will get blanked in the general. Not that Clinton would do any better; shed not make it without black voter support which because of Obama, wouldn’t happen.

    Posted by Bithead | July 5, 2008 | 11:44 am |

  22. Bithead says:

    The patterns are all there for a landslide for McCain; This is 1968 all over again.

    And so it was. ANd despite getting within striking distance, he managed to muck it up again, anyway.

    I’ve been saying for months now that Obama never gain the real support of the party faithful, in full, and so would never win the GE. Beginning to look like I called it.

    Yep. And guess what? That view has proven itself…. over and over.

    Do keep quoting me like this. It’s interesting how often you prove me correct.

  23. Eric says:

    LOL!

    Bithead sounds so smug and cocksure in his pronouncements, too. Too bad he’s so wrong.

    Anjin, you’re doing a smash-bang-up job on Bithead. Unfortunately with the nutjob Bithead types, being a conservative means never having to admit you were wrong. Even when they are.

  24. anjin-san says:

    and so would never win the GE. Beginning to look like I called it.

    Bit! Words mean things. Did Obama win the election? Yes or No?

    the resulting breakup of the Democrats in 08 was will be of legendary proportions

    This certainly explains why Hillary Clinton is the next SecState.

    Looks like you called it skippy πŸ™‚

    Me, I am buying tin foils futures…

  25. Bithead says:

    Bit! Words mean things. Did Obama win the election? Yes or No?

    The statement was made assuming McCain was willing to fight his way through. He wasn’t. Obama didn’t win because he had massive support… as the current splits indicate, as I linked. He won through inaction on the part of McCain.

    the resulting breakup of the Democrats in 08 was will be of legendary proportions

    And did you actually read what I linked? Are you going to deny the level of leftist discontent exposed in those links? the guy’s not even in the office, yet and half the party’s already pissed at him.

  26. Eric says:

    The statement was made assuming McCain was willing to fight his way through. He wasn’t. Obama didn’t win because he had massive support… as the current splits indicate, as I linked. He won through inaction on the part of McCain.

    See, Anjin? It wasn’t Bithead’s smug pronouncements that were wrong; it was McCain who failed Bithead’s pronouncements!

    Classic nutjob righty denial. If the facts go against you, just keep on insisting that what you really meant (but never stated) was that those hundred other things had to happen first.

  27. anjin-san says:

    And did you actually read what I linked?

    No bait and switch bitsykins. The subject here are your repeated posts about a coming McCain landslide and Obama’s sure defeat.

    No sweat though dude. Its easy to see why you are running from your own words.

  28. anjin-san says:

    Are you going to deny the level of leftist discontent exposed in those links? the guy’s not even in the office, yet and half the party’s already pissed at him.

    Just for fun, lets address your rather pathetic attempt to change the subject from your election “predictions”

    A new CNN poll finds 79% of Americans approve of President-elect Obama’s performance so far during transition, with just 18% disapproving.

    18%. Those would be the people who still think bush is swell. Lets just call them “Chowder heads”.

    Yessir, Democrats are furious with Obama, furious, I say.

  29. anjin-san says:

    The statement was made assuming McCain was willing to fight his way through.

    So, your premise was incorrect. In other words, you were wrong.

    I think that’s what I already said.

  30. Bithead says:

    No bait and switch bitsykins

    Nope. Yuo aren’t getting away with channging the subject. Answer my question.

    So, your premise was incorrect. In other words, you were wrong

    .

    Nope.
    Your claim was based on the supposedly massive support Obama had gained. Which wasn’t true.

  31. anjin-san says:

    Nope. Yuo aren’t getting away with channging the subject. Answer my question.

    Actually, I already did. I see you remembered your stupid pill this morning.

    Wiggle all your want to bit, you are on the hook of your own words. Pretty much every single thing you said about the election turned out to be total bs. Not really a surprise πŸ™‚