Mission Not Accomplished

From Walter Russell Mead’s “Al-Qaeda Is Alive and Well“:

Contrary to exclamations from the Obama administration and the mainstream press, Al-Qaeda is not dead, not gone, and not “on its last legs.” In fact, the regional groups that together make up “Al-Qaeda” have had different fortunes in recent months, as Daveed Gartenstein-Ross reports for Foreign Policy, but its fighters are still out there….

It seems that Al-Qaeda willingly hid from public view, regrouped, explored new areas of operation, trained, and gathered recruits, all before the 9/11/12 attack in Benghazi—and all amid repeated spiking of the football in Washington over the killings of Osama bin Laden and Abu Yahya al-Libi, among others….

Americans have a pattern of prematurely declaring victory in these kinds of long, drawn-out struggles. Think back to Lyndon Johnson’s “light at the end of the tunnel” in Vietnam, the “death throes” of the Iraqi insurgency that Vice President Cheney thought he saw, and the triumphal crowing after bin Laden’s death that Al-Qaeda was on the verge of strategic defeat. We ought to be more careful declaring victory, especially when we aren’t exactly sure to begin with what victory would even look like.

As if to underscore Mead’s warning, here is a tidbit from The Telegraph:

Al-Qaeda has been blamed for a recent series of forest fires across Europe, as the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service claimed they were set by arsonists as part of the group’s low-cost attack strategy.

“One should note that setting fires to forests in the countries of the European Union is a new tendency in al-Qaeda’s strategy of a ‘thousand cuts’,” Alexander Bortnikov said, according to state news agency RIA Novosti, at a meeting of heads of security agencies.

“This method allows (al-Qaeda) to inflict significant economic and moral damage without serious preliminary preparations, technical equipment or significant expenses.”

In linking al-Qaeda to the deadly wildfires, Mr Bortnikov pointed to calls to launch a “forest jihad” by various extremist websites which he said also publish detailed instructions about how and where to best carry out arson.

He said it was very difficult for special services to find and prosecute such arsonists.

Deadly fires have swept through forest land in EU countries such as Portugal and Spain over the past few months, killing scores of people and forcing thousands to evacuate. (“Al-Qaeda blamed for Europe-wide forest fires,” October 4, 2012)

It seems to me that someone ought to be taking seriously the kind of scenario that I laid out in “The Next 9/11?”:

…I challenge the [Obama] administration to tell me that the following has not happened and cannot happen in the United States:

  • A large but dispersed collection of improvised weapons for improvised, mortar-style attacks has been gathered in and around major U.S. cities and transportation and energy nodes.
  • These weapons are positioned so that their activation, on a massive scale would create havoc and panic — and might well disrupt transportation and communication networks. (With a massive salvo, not every weapon must reach its target.)
  • These weapons can be activated remotely — perhaps through signals transmitted from a single point — so that they can be fired in coordinated waves. Each successive wave disrupts and complicates rescue and recovery efforts that ensue from preceding waves, heightens confusion and panic, and lays the groundwork for economic disaster and political repression.

Obama’s political correctness, I fear, goes hand-in-hand with his demonstrated fecklessness in matters of national security. The intelligence and special operations forces of the United States should be capable of detecting and dismantling a threat of the kind outlined above. But will they be given the necessary resources and leeway? I doubt it.

I wrote that more than a year before the murders of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. Murders that underscore Obama’s insouciant incompetence in the face of a determined enemy.