Monday, May 23, 2011

A Clausewitzian bombshell . . .

On May 16th, I commented:

As to Al Qaida, it seems obvious to me that we have to rethink our assumptions on that one. My comment as to "resuscitation" saw AQ as providing a useful prop for US policy, linking AQ/Islamofabulism with the Arab Spring would be in the best interests of the Washington Rules and of course our (remaining) autocratic proxies in the ME. To this we must now add the reality - which is hard to dispute imo - that AQ/OBL was essentially a state-sponsored entity. OBL would have never lasted as long as he did nor would have felt as secure as he obviously did were that not the case. The open question at this point is which other states, besides Pakistan, were its sponsers . . . ?

So consider that . . .

Now a metaphor . . . consider a Prussian Army Corps Headquarters circa 1916 in Russia - officers and staff non-commissioned officers roaming about on an open field. Suddenly KA-BOOOOOM!

Dazed faces, smoke, men stumbling about, nobody's hurt but everyone's a bit singed ... what happened? One of our basic assumptions about the current complexus of US military conflicts essentially imploded. OBL/Al Qaida was state-sponsored, probably all along, which is why it has lasted as long as it has, was able to be so quickly resuscitated after the advent of the Arab Spring.

The first question is since OBL/Al Qaida is a state-sponsored entity, which countries are behind Al Qaida in addition to Pakistan? This one is followed by countless more . . . We are in a new war from a Clausewitzian strategic theory perspective . . .

One of the basic assumptions of the Global War on Terror is gone. Any person wishing to seriously discuss strategy, strategic theory, or our own US military history since 2001, will have to deal with that fact, from now on.

Update, September 15, 2011:

Some more possible pieces have been added to the puzzle which support my view.

FB Ali of SST has an interesting piece up which starts with this scenario:

It begins with the CIA station chief in one of the Gulf states receiving an unexpected visitor with a fascinating tale. He was a recently retired senior officer of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and he wanted to talk about Osama bin Laden. Some years ago, he said, the Saudi intelligence chief approached the ISI with the request to provide sanctuary to bin Laden within Pakistan. The Saudis said that bin Laden was prepared to come down from the hills where he was hiding, provided sufficient assurances were available about his security. In return, he would ensure that al Qaeda would not target Pakistan, and he would also limit his own involvement in its operations. . .


  1. "OBL/Al Qaida was state-sponsored, probably all along, which is why it has lasted as long as it has, was able to be so quickly resuscitated after the advent of the Arab Spring. "

    After looking "reuscitated" up, I cannot figure out why this word should apply to "OBL/AQ".

  2. Sven-

    "Resuscitation" has to do with perception management and Information Operations which are a large part of what passes for "strategy" in US planning today. This is in turn connected with how the US chooses to deal with the Arab Spring which is obviously now to support the reaction in deed while only the reformists in rhetoric. Intentionally or unintentionally (due to how we perceive the threat) AQ plays a large role in this. AQ wasn't getting much press, there was absolutely no connection with it and the Arab Spring, the "Islamic" element was gaining little traction. Now, since the killing of OBL the situation is different especially in terms of perception management . . .

    But this is only a small part of the overall situation now.

    Much more importantly, the assumption as to who and what the enemy is has been overturned, the nature of the conflict is fundamentally different than what has been widely assumed . . . do you follow my argument?

  3. Seydlitz,

    I also don't understand what you're saying about the resuscitation of AQ and perception management.

    I also don't follow about the nature of the conflict. Fundamentally different? What has changed? It's not exactly a new idea that elements in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere were helping AQ and its affiliate organizations. Whether this support came from the highest levels and was therefore government policy or whether it is the result of corruption and poor governance remains to be seen.

  4. Seydlitz,
    Your point rests on a hinge point.
    This fulcrum is-what is terrorism?
    Is it war or criminal activity? Imo it's a criminal endeavor, but in the spectrum of war it is a issue somewhere below /intertwined with LIC. T. will always be a GW/UW issue, when in a non criminal mode. IMO.
    But my cmts do not negate your hypothesis since historically all successful T. orgs. have habitually been State sponsored or supported. The examples are self evident since most Euro groups withered when the SOVBLOC stopped their support. Even ideological T.s like Carlos rec'd state sponsorship of a fashion, if one considers safe haven as a form of sponsorship. Think ubl in todays parlance.
    I think we both accept this as true.
    The groups that prosper w/o state support are usually insurgent elements supported by criminal activity and active and passive popular support of their society. The Taliban come to mind , and i never accepted them as the same critter as AQ. Two different ball games.
    One could say that the US govt provides support to T. groups also. Some Kurdish groups come to mind.
    I can't think of any T. group that has taken over a govt UNTIL they evolved and move up the spectrum. This is important b/c the assumption of the pwot was that these groups were an actual threat rather than symbolic in nature. One doesn't kill symbolism with missiles.
    So i agree that our assumptions need to be reevaluated, and this won't happen b/c we are not willing to face the reality that 10 years of war were actually a cruel hoax , and a waste of life and money.

  5. Andy-

    "It's not exactly a new idea that elements in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere were helping AQ and its affiliate organizations."

    "Elements helping", but what was assumed to be basically a non-state-sponsored, international, religious-focused terrorist organization. The non-state-sponsored portion of that assumption has gone up in smoke. The "religious" element is now dubious as well. That OBL/AQ could only have lasted as long as it has is due to the support it has received from an ally of the US in the Global War on Terror . . . OBL was living where he was with a feeling of relative security, meaning that he felt he had nothing to fear from the locals, that is the Pakistani military. That the military essentially controls the state is nothing new as well. The resistance that the US suspected might come up in regards to the raid was from Pakistani government forces . . .

    The rhetoric about "failed state" in regards to Pakistan is an attempt to avoid the main issue. Pakistan is operating in terms of what it sees as its own interests . . .

    It's time to pack up and come home, this war has lost whatever coherence it ever had . . .

  6. jim-

    Agree. In addition, would point out the US government's definition of "terrorism":

    "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, relgious, or ideological objectives." JCS Pub 1 1987

    What makes the use of force "unlawful" is the lack of state sponsorship: the use of force by a legitimate state is by this definition not "terrorism".

  7. Mmmm...I'm not sure I'm with you on this one.

    There are true "state-sponsored" terrorist organizations, outfits like the Latin and South American death squads, or some of the proxy armies in Africa that fought the apartheid regimes back in the Seventies and Eighties. And there are states that "sponsor" terrorism, such as the way we funded the muj in Afghanistan, or several Arab states fund organizations like Hezbollah or Hamas.

    But I think it's a little bit of a stretch to conflate Pakistan's position vis-a-vis AQ with this sort of "sponsorship".

    The reality in southwest Asia - a reality that the U.S. seems to have a hard time dealing with - is that for Pakistan the first, last, intermediate, permanent, and most critical issue is "how does this help us fuck with India?" India is their most consistent and most important foreign policy issue (and domestic policy, in a sense, since the various governments and the military use stuff like Kashmir as a shiny pretty to distract their public).

    When we knocked off the Talibs we replaced them with an outfit that has been sucking up to India more than the Pakistanis want. They have made their dissatisfaction with the Karzaites open and repeated, and we've basically told them to go piss up a rope when we've even bothered to respond to them.

    It's no real secret that the Afghan Taliban is in pretty deep with the ISI and hence the Pakistani government and military (which are almost the same). So it wouldn't surprise me at all if those same organizations have and always have had deep penetration into AQ; after all, it was always part of the AQ-Talib-Pakistan axis that ran around the high plateau there.

    Pakistan probably wanted some control over OBL for a number of reasons. Potential use against the Indians, and the Karzaites, some degree of leverage over him in his fight with the U.S., just the usual sort of skulduggery that secret policemen get up to in general; how many Bolsheviks were on the payroll of the Tsar's Ohkrana?

    I think the critical mistake we're making and will continue to make is to pretend that our "allies" like Pakistan will ever put our priorities over theirs. That's why I don't see this as an explosion that reveals Pakistan's nefarious plans to use AQ against the U.S.

    I'll bet that if we were to be able to get the whole story it would turn out to be someone in the ISI who figured that Osama was an asset in the struggle against India and her "ally" in Afghanistan. They probably couldn't really have cared less about the U.S., other than as an irritant for supporting their rival in Kabul...

  8. FDChief-

    "Some control over OBL"

    I think the facts speak for more than that.

    "That's why I don't see this as an explosion that reveals Pakistan's nefarious plans to use AQ against the U.S."

    I haven't gone that far. Rather, my argument is simply that when considering AQ, we can no longer assume that they are not state-sponsored, have to in fact, based on what we know now, assume that they are state-sponsored and that at least one of the states involved is Pakistan. Any other states involved would clear up the rest of the situation somewhat, but at this point we don't know who they are.

    This new reality of course changes the whole character of our struggle against AQ, requires a shift in the centers of gravity that we use in our military planning. This realization also makes the whole US war policy much more problematic . . .

    One could come to the conclusion that we are essentially at war with Pakistan, or "elements" within Pakistan which is a fools' game imo, and that would explain much of our current policy, which is otherwise difficult to fathom. Re-investigating the whole history behind 9/11 would be a start, but I don't see much interest in the US for that . . . do you?

  9. Chief: I think the critical mistake we're making and will continue to make is to pretend that our "allies" like Pakistan will ever put our priorities over theirs.

    Just as we put our priorities over those of other nations. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

    An "ally" may share some common objectives, but only a fool (read that as the bulk of the US population) would think that this means they have adopted our objectives in some subservient manner. Those specific objectives simply happen to be the same as ours.

    As to a definition of "terrorism", even our governmental agencies have not settled on a single, commonly worded definition.

    Seydlitz: Re-investigating the whole history behind 9/11 would be a start, but I don't see much interest in the US for that . . . do you?

    Why would we "re-investigate", when we have been fed a rationale for it and waged unnecessary wars as a result. Perhaps there is no interest because there is no stomach for an honest look at the truth? Without regard to OBL's actual objectives at the time, it doesn't take great intellectual power to see that in response, the US broke out in assholes and tried to shit itself to death. While it's a truly remote chance that we will ever really know, I am willing to bet that our self inflicted post 9/11 damage to our nation was orders of magnitude greater than OBL ever dreamed. If one wishes to discuss "allies", perhaps we should look to see how much of an "ally" we ourselves actually were to furthering OBL's goals of inflicting injury upon the US.

    One goal of "terror" is to instill fear. Fear hampers rational decision making. Irrational decision making results in self inflicted damage. Encourage a couple of hundred million people to live in fear, and there you have it. Combine that with politicians who seek power using fear, reinforced by their own fears, and you have a self reinforcing downward spiral. Sound like the past 10 years?

  10. To all,
    In the 80's, if i remember correctly, the US gov't had 13 different agency definitions of terrorism which included dod with each service going rogue.
    I always believed the violence to be symbolic with the target being the audience of the act , and government over reaction the goal.
    911 fits that defin to a T.
    The problem is of course focus since obviously dod deals with terrorism as a lic/war issue, and enforcement agencies look at it as a legal issue. The key point however is that US code should be the final arbiter since we are a nation of law, or are supposed to be. Rule of law SHOULD filter out emotional over reactive policies EXCEPT it didn't b/c we defined it as a war. Such is the result of elective office which is based on whatever it's based on.

  11. Chief,
    I like your analysis which you should/could expand by including the concept of intel.
    I WOULD NEVER ACCEPT ANY FORN INTEL as anything but self serving trash/fairy tales. This includes what's coming out of Libya/Tunisia/Egypt/Israel et al.
    But yet we base our actions on this garbage.
    I've been thinking on the concept of legitimate state violence and i can't accept this as valid, but yet it is a fact of our existence on this earthly plain. If this is true then i must conclude that Christianity is more dangerous than ANY terrorist organization.
    The basis of our society supposedly is Christianity , and we are fond of calling ourselves a Christian nation , which implies that we are CHRIST LIKE.
    Not hardly. Here's the conundrum- Christ was killed/sacrificed on the cross of legitimate state authority which means that he was in opposition to that same authority, and now all we good Christians ACCEPT that very same violence as LEGITIMATE.
    Strange days indeed. Christianity has given us just war theory which is validation of what you say- we do accept violence of the state. That is the basic fallacy that also needs to be reconsidered when looking at the assumptions concerning the pwot.

  12. seydlitz,
    I offer that we DO KNOW THE SPONSORS of terror from AQ.
    It's not that we don't know , but rather that we don't want to know.
    Everything that comes out of SA is nothing but plausible denial.

  13. Well, OBL's stated intent was to 1) get the U.S. to rampage all over the Middle East, breaking shit and pissing off people, and 2) fear-up the Great Satan and make it break its own laws, spend way too much money, and generally fuck itself. I'd say that, dead man or no, he accomplished his mission and then some, and as a strategist you can't do much better than that. In that respect my turban is off to the cunning old dead bastard.

    And he also knew, I think, that the U.S. local "allies" were particularly fragile, and that stressing the bond would be more likely to break it that strengthen it.

    Look at the difference between the sort of "allies" we have in the Middle East, and elsewhere. There it's not just a case of having sharing common objectives; most of our putative allies are or were roundly disliked by their own populations. Some of this loathing si because of the usual local reasons - greed, corruption, imperiousness, cronyism (not that cronyism is BAD, for most people, but it is if it's not THEIR cronies...). But a lot of it is because the local satrap has adopted our objectives in the face of a populace that dislikes the whole idea.

    And, like most people, we don't get it. Why DON'T they want what we want? How could anyone NOT want what we want?

    And our fucking unscrupulous political class, instead of cluing us in, keeps telling us how wonderful and noble we are.

    (Which is one big reason that whistle-blowers and Wikileakers are getting so hammered. Yes, part of the reaction is genuine concern for security. But a LOT of what was leaked wasn't really a security issue...but it DID expose the dissonance between what the U.S. government says it does and wants and what it really does. Mind you, the Middle Eastern toads beneath the harrow mostly already know that - a couple of Fighting Falcons bombing your cousin's wedding will do that...)

    So, yes, preventing any sort of dispassionate analysis of our objectives, motives, and methods is fairly critical to keeping the PWOT train rolling. So, no, there never will be a rational assessment of the actual value of our "ally" Israel. There never will be a real cost-benefit analysis of the way we reacted to 9/11, or whether the notion of spending billions to cast troops across southwest Asia and the Middle East like dragon's teeth is a better alternative than devising a Manhattan Project to develop the post-petroleum economy.

    In the old post-WW2 world of heavy industry and Cold War politics this might not have mattered. But we're trying to play the old game by the old rules...amd the rules are changing, and we're not adapting. Our "allies" don't have to fear the superpower rivalry anymore. And, I think, they're starting to realize, as Pakistan did, that we need them more than they need us. Or worse - that "standing by" the U.S., if you're an Arab leader, gets you nothing; that when your people rebel the U.S. will throw you to the mob if it looks like the mob is winning.


  14. (con't from above)

    Look at the Tales of Two Cities (Arab Spring Edition). In Cairo our pal Mubarak is as dead as the pharoahs. In Damascuc the Assad Dynasty reigns like Saladin. The moral of the story? Don't depend on the U.S., act like a real Arab, unleash your dogs of war on your enemies and laugh at the moral finger-wagging of the Yankees and their Israeli lackeys.

    Or, if you're Pakistan, make sure you have a whole bunch of strings for your bow. One to ostensibly "help" the U.S. monster thrash around your neighbor's place. One to keep an eye on the old enemy, India. And, yes, one to keep a finger on the Al Qaeda guys in case you need to push them one direction or another...

    Why we thought we were going to be a master at this Middle Eastern game of thrones I have no fucking idea, subtle intrigue and diplomatic double-dealing having been our strong suits for so long...

    But its pretty obvious to me that to expect our governing classes to do anything different is like expecting dogs to play cards.

  15. Chief,
    This may be trite , but our leaders are more interested in getting re-elected rather than really being leaders.
    When i think about it istm that communist china is a superior economic entity than is capitalist USA.
    We have lost the concept of what we are really all about, and instead focus on re election cycles.
    Forget Israel, we should be climbing into bed with India and throwing PAK under the bus, but this too has some serious implications.

  16. jim-

    Originally, Christians accepted death over denying their faith. "Conversion by the Sword" is a Western manifestation where empires imposed both secular and religious domination. Eastern Christianity has never departed from its early roots.

    American Neo-Christianity has further perverted the message by claiming that we are a "Christian Nation", for which, in the Bible, there is no basis, and taking a religion rooted originally in self discipline and self sacrifice and turning it into a religion of imposed discipline and extracting sacrifice from others.

    As to "Just War Theory", GWB took it to it's inevitable American Neo-Christian conclusion with Iraq, something that even the Jesuits never had in mind.

    So, jim, please do not paint all of Christianity with the same brush as America's Johnny Come Lately version. There is little in common.

  17. Here's a perfect example of the sort of "ready-fire-aim" sort of thing that OBL hoped to and appears to have accomplished -

    "Shaikh, a Canadian Muslim who lives in Toronto, approached Canada’s spy agency in 2004, offering to help root out Islamic extremists. Two years later, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) paid him to infiltrate Canada’s biggest terrorist conspiracy since the 9/11 attacks. Shaikh’s court testimony then helped convict 11 of the conspirators. Despite his efforts, Shaikh learned last week that he has been placed on a U.S. terror watch list — reportedly because his name was passed on by CSIS, the spy agency that paid him as an informant."

    So this guy is a stand-up dude, walks the Western walk and rats out the murderous bastards, and gets...what? Hucked onto the double-secret-probation-eeeeevil-bad-guy-list because of an adminstrative fuckup.

    Sweet. Brilliant. No wonder this has mutated into a self-licking ice cream cone. WASF...

    jim, Al: I agree with you, Al, in that I don't think this has anything more to do with genuine faith than military marches have to do with genuine music. On the other hand, I will agree with jim that 1) this whole "Islamofascism" business has help facilitate the Christian-dominionist faction of the U.S. political Right come out of the closet, and 2) the real danger I see from this is one of the very things that OBL was trying to facilitate; the identification of the West, and particularly the U.S., with a weird, toxic combination of religious polarization and social degeneration.

    Like a lot of "orthodox" people (and before you slap me, Al, what I'm talking about are people whose identity is wrapped up not in any sort of personal beliefs, faith, or creed but the sort of people whose life is shaped by the external strictures of an unquestioned orthodoxy) Osama was capable of believing six contradictory things before breakfast, and one was that the West was simultaneously morally degenerate and Christianly aggressive; the Crusaders were going to storm through Arabia with a cross in one hand, a sword in the other, and a DVD of "Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixins" stuffed down their pants.

    Sadly, if you troll the Right-wing blogs and various red-meat milsites you will come across a pretty fair number of the sort of "kick their ass, take their gas, kill a Muslim Commie for Christ" kinds of comments. So while you're correct about the Founders' intent - both the founders of the U.S. and the founders of Christianity - in both cases this mess has gone a long way to perverting both institutions into something a lot more similar to what jim describes.

    More's the pity.

  18. Al,
    I admit that i have a woodie for religion. Before Bush there was JFK and catholicism in RVN. We supported a good suit wearing Frenchfried gook b/c he was western looking and loved Jesus.
    So i see religion as a problem. Remember the commies were godless. Same -same nazis/nips.
    I'll pray on this.

  19. Al-

    Think we're pretty much on the same sheet of music.


    Ditto, although I would add that the definition of terror went through a rather important change in the early 1980s . . .


    Otherwise, I think ya'll aren't getting my point, OBL wasn't any mastermind. He was a tool. Died in the end like a dog. From a Clausewitzian perspective, we need to get out of this old mode of thinking, which honestly has no basis in reality, as we have seen . . . in other words simply trust your "lying" eyes . . . rather than any of what you've been led to believe.

    In regards to perception management, consider how "the surge" was sold to the American people as a military success . . . all the various steps involved, how the message evolved over time and who carried it . . . We see the same thing being repeated now - from an IO perspective - in regards to the "resuscitation" of AQ . . .

    Hey, what can I say? Ya'll heard it here on MilPub first . . .

  20. Chief: in both cases this mess has gone a long way to perverting both institutions into something a lot more similar to what jim describes.

    jim will get no argument from me concerning American neo-Christianity. And your use of the term "perversion" is spot on. My point is that the title "Christianity" 1)does not refer to an exclusively American religion, 2) did not begin as an American religion, and 3) in many corners of the world, Christianity and Christians are still adhering to the original tenets of the faith.

    The basic thrust of the American Right since the Regan years has been to see "Good" primarily as the opposition to "Evil". One need not do anything "Good", just oppose "Evil". The greater the "Evil" you oppose, the more "Good" you are. That opposition need not require action or sacrifice on your part, just the stated creed of opposition. Sending someone else to do the dirty work is still a high form of "Good". Making OBL, Islamofascism, etc the embodiment of the highest form of evil elevates those of this Wingnut ilk to the heights of "Good" because they have the highest form of "Evil" to oppose, even if they just do it with bumper stickers and going to the Mall shopping. Ever wonder why GWB's handlers inserted the word "Evil" into his comments, speeches, etc so often?

  21. I'm a bit late to the comments but I have a question for Seydlitz based on his original post.

    So what new information do you have about OBL and his ties to various states?

    As Jim and the Chief have pointed out, we've pretty much always known that OBL's primary support came from disaffected members of the Saudi royal family plus other donations from anti-US Sunni extremists around the Middle East.

    Did Pakistan actively support OBL or did they just tuck him away to keep him from irritating the US (and/or to be able to reward the US if we did something particularly nice for them). Is it possible that some member of the Pakistani government said something (intentional or otherwise) that eventually led to us bagging OBL?

    I can't see OBL living in Pakistan without the ISI knowing about it but that doesn't mean that he had a cozy relationship with them. It was likely a business deal between the two with both sides trying to figure out how to benefit the most.

    So I just can't buy into Seydlitz's theory that this is a new page in the war on terror.

    I have always felt that terrorism is a criminal activity and should be handled using criminal law. We should use the military to enforce the law but the primary focus should be courtrooms and legal investigations.

    As the Chief has already said, OBL's greatest crime was to cause us to act in ways that are contrary to our Constitution. But he could only do that with the assistance of a morally weak President and Congress.

    So who is more guilty in this case, the man who tempted us or the President and Congress who did the deed? In my opinion the greatest crimes in this conflict have been inflicted by our own leadership.

  22. Pluto,
    It was not OBL's crime that we over reacted-IT WAS OUR CRIME.
    Why would we want the military to enforce civilian law? Should we over turn Posse Commitatis?

  23. Pluto: In my opinion the greatest crimes in this conflict have been inflicted by our own leadership.

    Yes, a very polite way of saying: the US broke out in assholes and tried to shit itself to death.

    Sadly, our leadership not only encouraged this but exemplified it as well.

  24. Seydlitz,

    AQ as a state-sponsored organization doesn't make much sense to me whether the sponsor is Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

    On Pakistan, AQ leaders regularly call for the overthrow of the Pakistani government going back many years. They accuse the Pakistani government of being a "puppet" regime of the US. They've conducted attacks against Pakistani government and military forces as well as western-identified targets (like hotels) inside Pakistan.

    The rhetoric about "failed state" in regards to Pakistan is an attempt to avoid the main issue. Pakistan is operating in terms of what it sees as its own interests . . .

    I don't think it avoids the main issue at all. There's a reason AQAP operates in Yemen and not Saudi Arabia, for example. The Pakistani government, despite it's claims, does not have much control over large portions of it's purported territory. About 1/3 of the country is still managed under the old British colonial system. In other words, large parts of Pakistan are essentially colonies run with limited interference from the central government.

    As for interests, one of AQ's primary goals is the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy. Considering Pakistan's good relations with the Saudi's, and especially considering all the Saudi assistance over decades for Pakistan's proxy war against India, it doesn't make sense for Pakistan to sponsor a group that seeks to overthrow one of it's primary allies.

    There are a lot of groups in the Pakistani hinterlands the government can and does support to pursue it's interests - it doesn't need AQ and sponsoring AQ doesn't bring it any benefits it can't get elsewhere.

    "Some control over OBL"

    I think the facts speak for more than that.

    What facts?

  25. I have to echo Andy here, seydlitz; where's the smoking gun?

    I think Pluto's scenario is just as likely; OBL thinking he's using the Pakis while they think they're using him.

    It DOES suggest that the Pakistani commitment to our glorious War-on-Terror-Cause is...ummmm...less than fierce. But, fuck, we've known that for years, although we desperately try and hide it from the groundlings. But it makes sense if you see Pakistan as an entity with its own priorities and objectives (as well as a pretty chaotic and fractured one, with deep internal divisions) where an actor or actors might see the notion of having some leverage with AQ as potentiall useful in the long run.

    One of the reasons I harp on openness, whistleblowing, Wikileaks, and this sort of irritating and potentially security-breaching stuff, is that these kinds of dirty deeds done in secret often have a way of blowing back on not just the doer but the doer's associates, government, and people. I wasn't mentioning the Tsar's Ohkrana casually; one of the biggest nightmares in oligarchies or outright autocracies is that you often wind up with your own people mixing with your enemies until you can't be sure who is who. For instance, there's some reason to suspect that the "anarchist" terrorists that assassinated Tsar Alexander II were facilitated by members of the secret police who hated that monarch's liberal agenda. And it worked - the next two rulers were pigheaded autocrats who rammed Russia's head into the wall...

    So one good reason to keep our involvement in this fucked up part of the world to a minimum is because the exact sort of skulduggery that has been going on in this case - Pakistan intriguing with OBL/AQ, OBL/AQ intriguing with Pakistan, Talibs from various places intriguing with both, the Karzaites, Indians, Iranians, Saudis, everybody and his dog getting torqued around each other looking for some underhanded advantage - has the very real potential for embroiling the U.S. in the sort of thing that has bedeviled us since the fucking Gulf of Tonkin and before. Sometimes I have a hard time remembering that stuff like Ollie North's illegal war in Central America, Iran-Contra, the Mossadegh coup, the Allende coup, etc. etc. has been sucked down the memory hole. But there it is; when we have gotten involved in these fucking foreign intrigues the result has often been problematic for the U.S. in the long, and usually the short and medium runs, too.

  26. Perfect example:

    Wyden says the PATRIOT Act that Americans know about and the one that the government actually has in place are two very different beasts. There is a secret PATRIOT Act that American citizens don’t know about, Wyden claims, and it’s only getting worse.

    “We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says,” Wyden told Danger Room in an interview in his Senate office. “When you’ve got that kind of a gap, you’re going to have a problem on your hands.”

    Wyden and Udall want to close that gap. Their chances of actually doing so are depressingly slim."

  27. Gentlemen-

    Now it's getting interesting.

    To start, let's go back to immediately after 9/11. The US government decided to deal with this tragedy as an act of war. There were arguments for dealing with it as a criminal act, but nobody in government was in a mood to do that.

    So, Bush started the "Global War on Terror" where "one was either with us or with the terrorists". Now Al Qaida was quickly identified as the culprit, but there were no clear links to AQ and any state, rather it was described as an international terrorist organization, the vanguard of a jihadi movement which hoped to mobilize the entire Muslim world against "Zionism", "apostate" Arab rulers and the US with the goal of establishing a pan-Islamic Caliphate - In other words a global threat to justify a global response.

    How true was this at the time, and how much is true today? There were a whole spate of terrorist attacks in the years after 2001: Tunisia and Bali (2002), Casablanca (2003), Madrid (2004) and London and Manila (2005) and these were all linked in the publics' mind with Al Qaida, although any actual links were dubious in all but one. Either the entities had existed before or the motive was a reaction to US/UK/Spanish policies.

    If you compare the terrorist acts attributed to AQ since 9/11 you come up with a rather pathetic - in comparison - list. Of those listed above, only the attack in Tunisia, an explosion of a fuel tanker outside a synagogue, is linked directly with AQ. Every act since 9/11 has been that sort of thing - basic, simple, what a few guys working together could have accomplished with a bit of enterprise and criminal zeal. But that is not what got us into the GWOT . . .

    Which leads us to my first point. The level of sophistication to pull off what happened on 9/11 required the capabilities of a state-sponsored organization. Compare 9/11 to the Mumbai outrage of 2008, which is known in India funny enough, as "India's 9/11", another terrorist attack of this type and level of sophistication . . . I think we can assume that Mumbai was in fact state-sponsored, right?

    Can ya'll come up with any such terrorist attacks which were carried out by "interdependent" that is non-state sponsored, terrorist groups which come up to the level of either 9/11 or Mumbai 2008?

    Take your time.

  28. Also to answer Pluto's question as to "new information". I have no more than any of you, it is information readily available, some of it for years. The key pieces were provided in my view by the killing of OBL and what it showed us. Taken together it makes much more sense and helps explain more of the history since 9/11 than the non-state sponsored version.

    What exactly are we talking about? Assumptions used to guide strategic planning by way of strategic theory. It is assumed in war that the two sides recognize each other, can identify their respective enemy. After 9/11 there was something of a debate as to what the nature of AQ was, but this was highly influenced by what we had known about AQ prior to 9/11.

    There were two alternatives: AQ as a state-sponsored entity, which made the center of gravities to be engaged easy to identify. And AQ as a non-state sponsored entity which made the centers of gravity much more abstract, not related with states at all, but more in the attitudes of the Muslim peoples.. You can see how the selection of the alternative would fundamentally influence the nature of the war waged . . .

  29. Jim:

    Why would we want the military to enforce civilian law? Should we over turn Posse Commitatis?

    Good question, I need to explain in more detail. In general I would argue for the civilian police forces being the primary enforcement tool. But there are moments, like the OBL raid, where there's no substitute for soldiers.

    What I was trying to indicate was that in my model the soldiers would be operating under the direction of civilian law enforcement officials, not military leaders. I would have vastly preferred to have OBL alive and on trial in the US for his crimes. I suspect that after 5+ years of isolation he would be an effective spokesman AGAINST terrorism.

    Putting him in jail or handing him over to the Saudis to face their justice system like in the Tom Clancy novel would also be a vastly more effective way to deter terrorism than shooting terrorist and civilian alike and calling it good as we do now.

    P.S. - I'm having increasing difficulty in posting comments here. Is anybody else having the same problem?

  30. Seydlitz
    Can ya'll come up with any such terrorist attacks which were carried out by "interdependent" that is non-state sponsored, terrorist groups which come up to the level of either 9/11 or Mumbai 2008?

    Yes, I can. AlQuaida in Iraq, a psychotic splinter group from the original AQ that OBL denounced and cut off managed attacks of the same level of sophistication with depressing frequency up until the 2008 "Sunni Awakening" (which really meant that the local Sunni's finally realized what a bunch of whack-jobs the AQI crowd were).

    Not only did these guys manage to strike with metronome-level frequency but they did so with little cash in a war zone physically dominated by their enemy.

    Sorry, I don't find your argument convincing.

  31. Pluto,
    I've got to clarify your comments.
    If we followed a legal approach then we'd have to use the Host Nation to make the raid/arrest and then we'd extradite to the US.
    This then means -no secret prisons, kidnappings,extra ord renditions and all. Since the extra legal was our policy we in fact went rogue. Remember CIA people kidnapped a suspect from the streets of an Italian city and were convicted in absentia. This is not a legal approach unless in a alternate universe.
    I just don't believe that FBI agents have arrest authority in foreign countries. Do we allow the Scotland Yard to arrest folks on our street corners?
    (I reckon the raid on OBL could be viewed as the finest example of a no knock warrant-maybe we were afraid that he would flush the evidence.)
    We have lost all idea of what a legal approach to ANYTHING means, let alone the emotional topic called T. This is both conus and oconus.

  32. Pluto,
    I gave the Italian example solely to show that we are rogue actors.
    I do so b/c the standard answer to my comment will be- we can't trust the Paki's which is obviously true, but obviously we didn't trust the Italians.
    So what's the obvious conclusion?

  33. Seydlitz,

    This will probably be my last comment on this topic as I'm going out of town and will basically be gone for a couple of weeks, though I may check-in from time to time on my phone.

    Anyway, AQ was state-sponsored if one believes that the Taliban constituted the government of Afghanistan.

    As for your question, there are many examples. Pluto listed several attacks in Iraq, but there are also any number of attacks by the LTTE, there was the Cinema Rex fire in Iran, Air India Flight 182, The Beslan school massacre (as well as a several other Chechen-separatists attacks), a number of attacks in Algeria during the 1990's, Timothy McVeigh, etc. There are a lot of examples actually.

    So this:

    The level of sophistication to pull off what happened on 9/11 required the capabilities of a state-sponsored organization.

    is not true in my opinion though, again, AQ in 2001 one could be considered state-sponsored by the Taliban. Sophistication does not require state sponsorship. Additionally, 9/11 wasn't even that sophisticated, which is what made it such an elegant attack. It did not require, for example, sophisticated knowledge of explosives or bomb-making - all that was needed was a small group of motivated individuals who were able to exploit security weaknesses and permissive airline procedures on hijacking. It didn't require them to do anything illegal up to the point where they took over the planes.

    So, I still don't get your point. It would be helpful if you could lay out a narrative or at least explain why Pakistan or any other government had/has an interest in sponsoring AQ. Even the Taliban and AQ have fallen out of favor. Indeed, I think the general ineffectiveness of AQ since 9/11, except for semi-independent actions from affiliates, suggests they are not state sponsored.

  34. Nice responses.

    Personally I have a hard time putting Al Qaida in Iraq (which is more a catchall for non-Iraqi Sunni resistance/terrorist groups) or even the attack on Beslan in the same category as 9/11 or Mumbai. Iraq was in chaos during 2005-7 when AQI was at its height, so how exactly does that equate with carrying out an operation like 9/11 or Mumbai against very powerful states? Andy makes it sound like anyone could have done what the perpetrators of 9/11 achieved, but the act of simultaneously hijacking four aircraft and crashing two of them into very highrise steel framed skyscrapers in such a way as to bring those buildings down, have them essentially collapse had never been done before. The twin towers were of course designed to withstand the impact of a 707. The piloting required to hit the Pentagon the way it did was also highly complex, hardly the action of a lucky novice. The money involved, logistics, selection and training of personal, all this points to a much different level of capability than we see in any of the examples given so far . . . or am I the only one who thinks this?

    People seem to have a hard time taking on board the simple fact that OBL was being protected by the Pakistanis, was obviously considered a Pakistani asset. The ISI works for the Pakistani military, is headed by a regular Army general. The Pakistani State is essentially the military with the civilian government being tolerated. Not only that but have not all the AQ "leaders" captured so far been taken in or were provided by Pakistan?

    Anyway busy weekend ahead, I'll be on and off time permitting. Nice thread gentlemen . . .

  35. Seydlitz:
    so how exactly does that equate with carrying out an operation like 9/11 or Mumbai against very powerful states?

    Both the 9/11 attack and the Mumbai attack where against powerful states that had fully lowered their guard and ignored several warnings of the impending attacks.

    Andy makes it sound like anyone could have done what the perpetrators of 9/11 achieved, but the act of simultaneously hijacking four aircraft and crashing two of them into very highrise steel framed skyscrapers in such a way as to bring those buildings down, have them essentially collapse had never been done before.

    As you'll recall, all of the terrorists received training on flying these airplanes in western countries using their real names and paying cash for the lessons. As I said, we had lowered our guard to the point where anybody could have done this. You are right that the audacity of the attack was impressive, but that doesn't mean that it was state-sponsored.

    The cost of the lessons for the pilots was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $100k, which is chump change for a pissed-off Saudi prince who is 1,000th in the line of succession.

    The twin towers were of course designed to withstand the impact of a 707.

    There was a Nova show a few years back that showed that the contractors cut some corners and the buildings weren't near as strong as originally designed.

    The piloting required to hit the Pentagon the way it did was also highly complex, hardly the action of a lucky novice.

    I can't say anything on this comment other than to note that the Pentagon is a REALLY big target (in more than one sense).

    or am I the only one who thinks this?

    Sorry, I still see it the other way.

    Have you ever seen how hard it is to hit a target moving at 60 mph with an IED? It seems to me that it takes a lot more skill to do that than it does to hit a large stationary building. And yet the insurgents hit our vehicles with impressive regularity.

    People seem to have a hard time taking on board the simple fact that OBL was being protected by the Pakistanis, was obviously considered a Pakistani asset.

    Eh, I have no trouble believing he was being protected by the Pakistanis. I also have no trouble believing that they wanted him to be an asset. I'm just not sure they got their money's worth.

    I think that 9/11 and Mumbai had nothing to do with an OBL-Pakistani army connection. OBL conducted 9/11 long before he needed the Pakis. Likewise, everything I've read suggests that the Pakis had been planning the Mumbai operation for years before OBL fell into their laps.

    Not only that but have not all the AQ "leaders" captured so far been taken in or were provided by Pakistan?

    An interesting point, how does it support your theory that AQ was supported by Pakistan?

  36. Pluto,
    Re; the pakis handing over prisoners etc..
    In crime scenarios the criminal organizations ALWAYS give up competitors and small timers to get the heat off their backs.
    Call it a sacrificial lamb.

  37. seydlitz-

    What the 9/11 guys did with the aircraft was quite straight forward private pilot level suff. The Hudson River is impossible to miss and leads straight to the target. The altitude of the builds was known, and golly gee gum, the aircraft had altimeters. All they really needs w a bit of training in the appropriate aircraft systems to be able to climb, descend and turn. Not one single precision maneuver involved.

  38. Al,
    There is a sort of simplicity here because even if they miss the primary target they will still cause terror/destruction. Wherever they fall out of the sky will still be a high density target. We usu call this a target rich environment.
    It's fool proof basic planning, unlike our response.
    I often wonder why they didn't hit much lower on the structures thereby sealing escape routes.

  39. jim-

    As many of us on Intel-Dump and here have openly stated, 9/11 was simple and elegant. Our aviation security was predicated on the threat of hijacking, and the stock and trade procedures for hijacking, all of which were impeccably followed, made their plan a walk in the park. They entered the "security area" via small commuter airports, because there is nothing worth hijacking flying out of such airports, and thus, at the time, a different set of conditions for which to vigilant. In short, the system was working well for what it was intended to deal with.

    As to impact altitude, the route down the Hudson necessitated clearing some tall buildings north of the Towers. Supposedly the Towers were targeted because of their symbolism of American financial decadence. They picked the easiest route to navigate, guided by the river and one requiring the least maneuvering upon "final approach".

    I flew that area for three years when I had the Area Support Flight Detachment at Stewart Field just up the Hudson. Thus, at least to me, it was a very sensible, simple and easy to execute plan.

    The Pentagon would have been a bit more difficult to target, but then, the approach route was fairly open to a low pass, and the Pentagon, again from personal flying experience, is hard not to recognize and line up on. As with the Towers, we are not talking about making a smooth landing, but just impact with a vertical structure.

    I would close by noting that following the impacts by the first three planes, inflight security has been handled by passengers on numerous occasions, to include United Flight 93, the fourth of the 9/11 aircraft. In short, once people knew of the new type of threat, passengers have risen to the occasion to prevent it. Far more than any Homeland Security crap. Even the poorest of "terrorists" know that an aircraft can no longer be an effective "flying bomb".

  40. Al,
    Roger your cmts, but i disagree that even a poor T knows that they can't use an a/c for a flying bomb.
    All they have to do is shift tactics. Think FED EX/UPS. Do these flts have passengers?
    How about putting a cabin crew under duress?
    There are several ways to skin any cat.
    T's are only limited by their opnl capabilities and their imaginations. It's complacency to act otherwise.

  41. I do have a response, but unfortunately not the time to put it together. Happy family commitments, crap at work, and the usual end of term marking have not allowed me the time to devote to this thread what I would have liked . . . but the response is coming . . . stay tuned.

  42. Unfortunately - and I think this a sign of the times - I am being unexpectedly distracted by work issues . . . collective bargaining and the sort. I have emerged as a possible center of power within our collective, or rather forming collective, which is currently hopelessly outmatched by management. I've played both sides so am pretty open minded, but this however is something entirely new.

    Honestly, I am bewildered by management's current stance. How many of you have experienced that before over the last say, 10 years?

    Too many probably.

    I had hoped to finish this thread and do a new one on Hew Strachan's article on the distinction between operations/operational art and strategy, bringing in Rupert Smith which would have been something new, but sadly no longer have the time, unfortunately for all I think.

    So, I'm off to the races . . . If will be "fun" . . . Wish me luck . . .