Some of you, after reading my post on the Spanish terror attacks and elections last night, have challenged my assertion that President Bush isn’t serious about waging a war on terrorism.
And my response is: He isn’t. Here’s why I think he isn’t.
I’m not going to go into how the President conned us into going to war against Iraq. That’s been done before, and I think it’s very well-traveled ground.
And I’m not going to address particular things that the Administration should have done instead. Brad DeLong and Matthew Yglesias, among others, have outlined specific alternatives that they would have pursued*.
My biggest problem with this Administration when it comes to the war on terrorism is that the President gives lofty, visionary speeches about the value of freedom and what we’re going to do to fight al-Qaeda and its minions.
And then we do less than nothing about it.
This is a war against a stateless entity. If you’re at war with al-Qaeda, and its allies, then you attack al-Qaeda and its allies. You don’t launch a war against someone totally different.
But that’s what the President and his advisors did. It’s as if, after Pearl Harbor, FDR had decided to go to war against Spain, instead of Japan and Germany.
So, after disrupting al-Qaeda’s base of operations in Afghanistan, instead of trying to chase down and finish al-Qaeda off, we decided to first, create an artificial pairing of enemies (the Axis of Evil)**, and, more to the point, focus on one particular member of said axis (Iraq), to the detriment of our operations against our real enemies (al-Qaeda et al).
Nearly a year has passed since the invasion of Iraq. We invaded Iraq because we were told Iraq was going to strike against us either through their own means, or by using terrorists. The threat was imminent, and we couldn’t wait for Saddam’s smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud over Cincinnati. Strike now, we were told, and America would be made safer.
Nearly a year later, I don’t think we’re any safer than we were at 8:40 AM on September 11, 2001.
We’ve over-stretched our military to the point where we’re engaging in a draft in all but name, just to keep an admittedly insufficient number of bodies in uniform. Not is our military over-extended, they’re ill-supplied as well, lacking sufficient body armor and properly armored vehicles in order to deal with the lethal threats they face here in Iraq.
We’ve yet to fully discover just how catastrophic the greatest intelligence failure in American history was—because the President refuses—even now, nearly three years after September 11—to cooperate with the commission responsible for discovering the extent of that disaster. A commission, it bears repeating, he was forced to create, after so many people, including victims’ families, complained that George W. Bush didn’t want to get to the bottom of things.
We’ve yet to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security—an agency the President was forced to create—and because of this, our borders aren’t secure, and the police, firefighters and paramedics who have to deal with the aftermath of any terrorist attack don’t have the support they need. That’s assuming they’re around to respond, since so many of them have been activated to serve not in their hometowns, but in Iraq, because they’re either in the Guard or the Reserves.
I could go on, but after a while, the examples become mind-numbing. And the bottom line is this: America is not safer from terrorist attack.
Instead, if anything, we’re more vulnerable, because our ability to respond has been damaged.
Because of all the things George W. Bush, and his advisors, have done and failed to do since September 11, 2001.
Our alliances are fractured, thanks to our puerile with-us-or-against-us rhetoric, to the point where, should we need more assistance in Iraq, it probably isn’t forthcoming.
Our intelligence networks lie fallow, thanks to our obsession with faith-based intelligence. So arid, in fact, that we couldn’t give Spain any advance warning that the M-11 attacks were being planned.
And our commitment to bringing freedom and liberty to the Middle East—through bold concepts like the Greater Middle East Initiative—lies in tatters, because our so-called allies (like Egypt and Saudi Arabia) stand opposed to anything that threatens their kleptocracies, and because we lack enough forces to bring security to Iraq, thus threatening its fragile attempts at democracy.
Two and a half years after September 11, one year after the invasion of Iraq—we’re no closer to defeating al-Qaeda than we were on September 12, 2001, and quite likely a lot further away.
Bush can give all the lofty speeches he wants—but they aren’t worth the paper they’re written down on if they’re not backed by any deeds.
By their deeds, ye shall know them. Not seeing any, I’m forced to conclude that the President isn’t serious about this war.
*Here’s Brad DeLong’s list of things he wants the President to do, not just speak about. His words, not mine:
1.Attack the problem of Al-Qaeda and its ilk through a unified response—military, intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic.
2. Not necessarily treat regimes that harbor terrorists as terrorists (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Boston, anyone?), but make them aware that nothing good will happen for them as long as they harbor terrorists, and that invasion is definitely something that we are thinking hard about.
3. Promote democracy around the world, rather than just pretend to.
4. Undertake a serious development and global health effort, rather than just pretend to.
5. Explain the real reasons we attacked Iraq—it wasn’t that we failed to realize what Hans Blix’s findings meant for the reliability of our intelligence, was it?
6. Retire the architects of the intelligence debacle—Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, and company. People foolish enough to take exiles’ statements at face value don’t belong in government.
7. Apologize to those of our allies who thought that containment and inspections was a successful policy in late 2002 and early 2003.
8. Put Marshall Plan-scale resources into building civil society in the Middle East, rather than just pretend to.
All in all, it’s a good list. #1 is probably the way to go in fighting this war, since a stateless entity like al-Qaeda isn’t someone you can always respond to militarily. Take M-11, for example: there’s no one you can use military might against, unless you plan on invading Morocco. So you have to have a law enforcement approach to deal with that.
But the Bush Administration has chosen to eschew that nuanced approach, probably because that was the approach Bill Clinton took, I guess, and therefore we’re fighting this war with one hand and one leg tied crosswise behind our back. This is more proof—to me, anyway—that Bush isn’t serious about fighting this war.
If we get attacked again on his watch—and odds are, we will—it’s because he’s done too little, too late. He’ll be the one responsible for it. We’ve avoided an attack inside our borders not because of things he’s done, but despite things he’s done. I have a gut feeling that al-Qaeda will strike again, and it will be as deadly, if not more
The other one I’d talk about is #6. You have to add Condi Rice and Steve Hadley to the list, and possibly Dick Cheney. Rice is quite possibly one of the most incompetent National Security Advisors in recent memory. NSAs are supposed to serve as honest information brokers, particularly to presidents who have little or no national security experience (like Bush).
By all indications, she’s failed utterly in that task (most notably in utterly dismissing the possibility that al-Qaeda could stage what ended up being September 11, and then lying about dismissing that information), and she’s not a Middle East or counter-terror expert (she’s a Russia/USSR hand). In addition, most people familiar with the White House decision-making process dismiss her as irrelevant, something that your NSA shouldn’t ever be.
Hadley, her deputy, has been implicated in the Plame/yellowcake scandal, and for that alone he should be sacked. Cheney, who was supposed to be the responsible adult in this Administration, has been anything but, responsible for everything from the war in Iraq to the energy scandals.
**Iraq, Iran and North Korea weren’t the guys I’d have picked. I’d have gone with the two DeLong mentioned—Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Particularly Pakistan, since they’re the premier bad actor in the region, having run a nuclear weapons bazaar for years. If al-Qaeda winds up with a nuclear bomb, it’s quite likely that it’s because Pakistan sold it to them.
Saudi Arabia basically paid off Osama bin Laden to attack everywhere else but the KSA. Beyond that, many of the Kingdom’s charities and princelings funnel money to al-Qaeda. And their pernicious strand of Islam is the same kind that fuels organizations like, again, al-Qaeda. Yet, to this day, we continue to treat Saudi Arabia as a quasi-ally. We shouldn’t.