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Leon Panetta believes the war on Al-Qaeda can be won.
July 10, 2011 2:02 PM   Subscribe


 
What else was he going to say? "Well, we've basically been dicking around for the last decade, with nothing to show for it, but, hey, no hard feelings, right?"
posted by briank at 2:03 PM on July 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Leon Panetta is a lying motherfucker.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:05 PM on July 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


No doubt there were PR people in the DoD who made sure he didn't use the phrase "last throes".
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:06 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Al Qaeda was defeated in just about every meaningful sense within months of 9-11. Everything since over this last decade has been largely bullshit.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:06 PM on July 10, 2011 [13 favorites]


So we can roll back the security theater then? Cause otherwise that's a pretty meaningless statement. Al Qaeda barely exists as a formal organization, and is more of an idea than an entity. You can't defeat ideas. Even if you wipe out all believers in an idea, eventually it will occur to somebody else.
posted by postel's law at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2011 [20 favorites]


What he didn't say: one of the reasons they are getting screwed over is that normal, non-terrorist protest appears to be producing political change where AQ could not.
posted by jaduncan at 2:09 PM on July 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


Even the most generous estimates pegged al Qaeda membership at less than a thousand people on 9/11/01.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:11 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not condoning violence here, but if al Qaeda had attacked Israel, there membership would have been composed of less than a thousand dead people by 9/11/02. At a far smaller cost in money and innocent lives than our approach.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:16 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


It probably won't take more than another two decades to completely eradicate it.
posted by maxwelton at 2:17 PM on July 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


there their
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:17 PM on July 10, 2011


Al Quaeda is a symptom. Address the underlying issues and then you'll get somewhere.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:19 PM on July 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


But at Dick's Discount Cars, the war on high prices continues!!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:21 PM on July 10, 2011 [15 favorites]


"I am authorized to say that the action we are now reporting may well bring the war within measurable distance of its end."
posted by brownpau at 2:22 PM on July 10, 2011 [8 favorites]


Al Quaeda is a symptom. Address the underlying issues and then you'll get somewhere.
posted by jimmythefish at 2:19 PM on July 10 [+] [!]


Sounds like terrorist talk.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:22 PM on July 10, 2011


It's a telegram to justify budget cuts.
posted by peacay at 2:25 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


MISSION ACCOMPLISHMENT WITHIN REACH
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:25 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


A fiction created for PR purposes - a single, monumental bogeyman standing in for hundreds of loosely (at best) allied terrorist organizations that can never be completely "defeated". When it serves the US' purposes to declare the fake conventional war it has declared over and al Quaeda dissolved, it will. But it won't have any impact whatsoever on terrorism.

See also: "U.S. Urges Bin Laden to Form Nation It Can Attack" [Onion]
posted by ryanshepard at 2:28 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a telegram to justify budget cuts.


That is really interesting. I never considered that.
posted by 4ster at 2:28 PM on July 10, 2011


Anyone who thinks this area is "winnable" in any sense is delusional. al Qaeda is not at war with the US; they are at war with all infidels. This is the ages-old fight between fundamentalists and more open-minded Muslims. We are just another infidel lumped into the equation.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:29 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a telegram to justify budget cuts.

Someone might want to tell the House.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:34 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not condoning violence here, but if al Qaeda had attacked Israel, there membership would have been composed of less than a thousand dead people by 9/11/02.

Israel within reach of defeating terrorism, claims internet wonk.
posted by smithsmith at 2:34 PM on July 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


I am confused. Not unusual for me. But I am not sure of this:
Al Qaeda mainly in business to get non-Muslims out of Arab/Muslim lands
Al Qaeda represents a new try at spreading the world of the Koran world-wide and changing the world.
Al Qaeda just the terror branch of Muslims and there are many Muslims not terror inclined but who will not say very much about the more militant among them.
Al Qaeda nearly vanguished now
Al Qaeda moving into Somalia and Yemen

What am I to believe, please?
posted by Postroad at 2:37 PM on July 10, 2011


--Someone might want to tell the House.--

He is. The debt ceiling talks at the moment are covering possible budget cuts over a 10+ year period.
posted by peacay at 2:39 PM on July 10, 2011


How are we defining "defeat"?
posted by adamrice at 2:39 PM on July 10, 2011


"The subtlest change in New York is something people don't speak much about but that is in everyone's mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sounds of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest editions.

All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm."


-- E.B. White
from "Here is New York" c. 1948
posted by Freen at 2:40 PM on July 10, 2011 [14 favorites]


Al-Qaeda has became an idea. How can you defeat an idea militarily?
posted by Carius at 2:43 PM on July 10, 2011


> What am I to believe, please?

Al Qaeda is COBRA.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 2:43 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


He said eliminating as few as 10 of the group's top figures could cripple its ability to strike the West.

Oh frak off. Not even a puppet such as Leon Panetta is this stupid. With cell based terrorist networks you could kill of every single leader and still accomplish nothing other than new promotions in the ranks. What the hidden agenda here? Who in the complex are about to get even richer?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:58 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Listen to what they're actually talking about here.

They've identified the key leadership after recent successes, and if they can go after them and get them, they can cripple their ability to do any kind of strategic planning that would allow them to do an organized attack on the US.

That can absolutely be true, even if Al Qaeda still exists in smaller supportive cells throughout the world.

Really, AQ is an idea, and it's easy for decentralized terrorist/liberation groups to affiliate themselves with them... but the central organization allows them to coordinate complex attacks with these cells, training fighters, getting them to targets in foreign countries, funding them, supplying them with explosives, information, plans, etc., coordinating others that potential terror cells don't even know about -- and can't disclose information on -- to do key tasks that lead to the overall plan's success.

If they can knock out their centralized planning and trace it back to the biggest, most organized sources of revenue back in places like Saudi Arabia, etc., that is a *BIG* victory. It makes it *very* hard for the individual cells to coordinate activities with central planning and funding, certainly.

So, yes, I think Panetta has a point; with a strong push, AQ as we know it could very well be dismantled into its component parts. That's not to say it couldn't be reconstituted, but the thing is, the US is racking up real successes right now at taking out the leadership of both AQ and the Taliban, with special forces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan... and in countries like Yemen too. And I don't see this as ending, even when US special forces go, because we're leaving highly trained Afghan, Pakistani, Yemeni, etc. special forces in our wake.

Think about the method as similar to that of when the US toppled Iran's leader, imposed the Shah of Iran on them... and then went to considerable time and expense to train the SAVAK, who were very, very skilled at both gathering intelligence and at "disappearing" enemies of the state at night. They were the iron fist that pacified / terrorized that country for nearly thirty years... and the intel, weapons, and training they have available to them nowadays is only getting better.

A huge amount of what we have been doing lately is training up these kind of elite forces around the Islamic world. And while we would like them to go after AQ and other terrorist cells, and will reward their continued success after we leave with cash and weapons, well... once we're out of their country, what else do you think these elite troops will be used for?!

Just because you might not agree with the conflict or the people involved, that doesn't mean that they're not going to succeed, at least to the degree that they'll buy out a lot of the bad guys, eliminate much of the rest, and train the locals to kill their own troublemakers / repress possible revolts. And if they need help, drones and cruise missiles are just a few minutes away. They light 'em up, we knock 'em down.

In the next few years, this will be enough to allow us to bring most of the troops -- the ones that aren't training foreign forces -- home. The real issue, frankly, is what kind of nations we leave in our wake.
posted by markkraft at 3:13 PM on July 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Al Qaeda" is almost complete fiction. Hell, even The BBC admits as much.
posted by iotic at 3:28 PM on July 10, 2011 [5 favorites]




Just because you might not agree with the conflict or the people involved, that doesn't mean that they're not going to succeed, at least to the degree that they'll buy out a lot of the bad guys, eliminate much of the rest, and train the locals to kill their own troublemakers / repress possible revolts. And if they need help, drones and cruise missiles are just a few minutes away. They light 'em up, we knock 'em down.

I think this is rosy thinking. We've been down this road a lot of times - it rarely works out well for us and it almost never works out for the citizens of those countries. That's on top of these kind of operations being monumentally expensive.

See: Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua, Chile, Cuba, Haiti, Panama, etc., etc. etc.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:36 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Someone might want to tell the House."

He is.


Except that Obama wanted $9 billion more for the Department of Defense than the House spending bill allocated. The House increased the budget by 2.7%, whereas Obama wanted 4.1%. Think about that. Obama wanted $9 billion more for defense than the Republican-controlled House, and that in a time of budget constraints and troop draw-downs that would have given him political cover for requesting less.

There is no telegraphing here, just an attempt to capitalize politically on the death of Osama bin Laden and shift focus away from Al Qaeda and in favor of the more nebulous War on Terror. We may be tacitly admitting that the Al Qaeda bogeyman is not a significant force in the world, but we aren't about to stop the war. There's too much money in it.
posted by jedicus at 3:40 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


Gadaffi, Al Queda, Taliban, Saddam Huissein, more Gadaffi, Idi Amin, godless communists - in the past 50 years it's always someone - just out of reach - just within victory - that we spend trillions on which we could be spending on Healthcare, eliminating poverty , improving education , bettering the lives of the middle class. If I've learned nothing in the past 50 years it's that it doesn't mater who the enemy du jour is because there will always be another one shortly thereafter.

I have come to the conclusion that the only real and potent enemy of the American people is the military-industrial complex.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 3:40 PM on July 10, 2011 [35 favorites]


I think we can all agree that HOAs present far more of a clear and present danger to the American people that Al-Qaeda does.
posted by elizardbits at 3:48 PM on July 10, 2011 [11 favorites]


"With cell based terrorist networks you could kill of every single leader and still accomplish nothing other than new promotions in the ranks.

I would argue that much of AQ isn't cell-based in any kind of truly secure, distributed, egalitarian way. If that were the case, you wouldn't expect to see OBL being taken out, surrounded by a ton of contacts around the world, with links to bank accounts and financial contacts, plans for operations in other regions, etc. Clearly, there are those in the cell who are deferred to in a command-and-control manner. If you took out enough of these people, it really could be hard for the individual cells to reform the kind of centralized structure they need to be successful on the same level and with the same audacity as before.

Rather, if you look at most of their big, successful operations, it usually involves terrorists who are centrally paid for, trained, equipped, and dispatched on missions outside of their comfort zones, with minimal local assistance. Those are the kinds that Panetta is talking about and is most worried about.

Due to the very nature of AQ, most of the money flows in from the Arab states... which is why most of the C&C comes from those AQ members who have the best, oldest contacts there, including OBL all the way to the end. Sounds to me like they're talking about cutting off the head, to the extent that it still exists.

That doesn't mean that AQ couldn't come back even more decentralized, assuming they could work out the issues of money and power, and all the conflicts that can cause... which isn't easy, as those with the money usually want the power.

Even then, it's a bit like forcing people to fileshare via Tor, as opposed to a torrent with a real tracker. Slower, much less effective, and more likely to fail in general.
posted by markkraft at 3:52 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


As U.S. cuts $800 million in military aid, Pakistan says it doesn't need it.

Wish they would have told us before.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:55 PM on July 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


ctrl + F "october surprise"

Nothing? Seriously? I'm the most cynical one in here? That was my honest first reaction.
posted by penduluum at 4:26 PM on July 10, 2011


Perhaps he meant to say our engagement with al Qaeda is nearly over because we've done just about all we can for them?
posted by uosuaq at 4:27 PM on July 10, 2011


In the words of David Cross, declaring a war on terrorism is like declaring a war on jealousy.
posted by secondhand pho at 4:34 PM on July 10, 2011


> Just because you might not agree with the conflict or the people involved, that doesn't mean that they're not going to succeed,

No, the reason they aren't going to succeed is that they haven't succeeded after years, there is no real evidence of progress at all except a bunch of press releases like this one, and that they haven't managed to create a stable Afghani government that's capable of defending themselves - the fact that the US has been extremely unsuccessful at waging war since Vietnam must also be taken into account.

We've been having discussions like this on the blue for almost a decade now, where enthusiastic supporters of the War in Afghanistan tell us that we're going to win it soon. At this point, the burden of proof is definitely on you.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:49 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


> if al Qaeda had attacked Israel, there membership would have been composed of less than a thousand dead people by 9/11/02. At a far smaller cost in money and innocent lives than our approach.
You're ignoring the stupendous short-term political advantages the Republicans gained by taking the excuse to launch a couple of small wars. Quiet counter-intelligence and assassination might be more efficient, but it doesn't help your commander in chief in his quest to look like a big swinging dick.
posted by Estragon at 4:58 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Neither does it help your Vice Commander in Chief make a fortune from his War Company (while young American men and women continue to die in battle)
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:04 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Even the most generous estimates pegged al Qaeda membership at less than a thousand people on 9/11/01.

and they couldn't do anything. why we take them seriously is beyond me. they've never killed anyone.

oh, sorry that al Qaeda.

Nevermind.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:29 PM on July 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


We can see the light at the end of the tunnel!
posted by bukvich at 5:32 PM on July 10, 2011


"No, the reason they aren't going to succeed is that they haven't succeeded after years"

They were far undermanned for years, with a wholly inadequate capacity for recruiting and training the locals.

"there is no real evidence of progress at all except a bunch of press releases"

This year, to date, NATO fatalities are down from last year by about 15%, despite having considerably more troops in country, a higher tempo of offensive operations, and more forward-positioned troops, occupying former Taliban-controlled territory. Last month, NATO casualties were down about 35% from last year. This month, they're currently on track for about 40% fewer than last year.

This is actually lower than the DoD anticipated, based on the increased risk the troops have faced. The Taliban may have incurred too many losses over the last year, given the high operational tempo. Attacks and direct fire assaults are down, while bombs are up. And though bombs can be indiscriminate and costly, they *don't* control territory, and are generally quite unpopular with the people.

Economic growth is currently reported at 22.5% per year, which is helping to strengthen the central government. Unemployment is high, but decreasing. The Taliban have been denied control of places like Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which used to be prime territory for the Taliban's opium production and local recruitment. Evidence suggests that they are having less luck in recruiting locals to join their cause.

This year, the Afghan National Army is considerably larger, exceeding its recruitment goals, better trained, more active in combat operations. Same with the police force. They are currently on track to a security force of nearly 400,000 members by the end of 2014. Despite some problems with infiltrators into the security services, fatal attacks upon recruits and training stations are down considerably from previous years.

"they haven't managed to create a stable Afghani government that's capable of defending themselves"

During most of the Bush Administration, the retention rate for ANA and Afghan police troops was so bad that even when they met recruitment goals, they oftentimes ended up with those same troops walking away after a few months. Retention is considerably improved since then, and salaries have been significantly increased. Public opinion about the ANA has increased significantly, while the actual risk of serving in the Afghan security forces has lessened considerably.

Can they completely defend themselves yet? Depends. They have successfully defended themselves in several significant enemy offensives. They stopped, surrounded, and wiped out a raid of about 200 Taliban in Kandahar, for example, with few casualties and none of the targeted government buildings overrun quite recently, with minimal NATO assistance. And within the next few weeks, they will have assumed security control of about 25% of all Afghan territories. That said, they have a large country that needs stabilizing, and in order to do so, they will require more troops with greater training.

So, while I understand that the burden is on the people in charge to rack up the evidence that they're actually doing the job, it does seem to me that they're finally going in the right direction, at a fairly rapid pace.
posted by markkraft at 6:03 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


We've been having discussions like this on the blue for almost a decade now, where enthusiastic supporters of the War in Afghanistan

tell us that we're going to win it soon

stopped believing that myself in late 2003, most likely put up the ole hurah in 04'. But the idea occurred to me, getting out is victory, with, with a stable government which is wide open for interpretation. If it were a matter of pure military might we have left in 2003, a county pock marked, a mountainous version of Laos and Cambodia circa 1969? By an almost defacto postion I support a strong military though what I think weakens a miltary is protracted war were civilians have a schismatic approach, i.e. the "support our troops" social theme as the only 'reason' U.S. troops are still in other countries.

If you look at the region of the world, North Africa to Yemen; if a proactive peace can be maintained, then the world has a better chance is extricating this madness that we did not create yet none the less feed into.
posted by clavdivs at 6:04 PM on July 10, 2011


Gosh, Ironmouth, you always leap in with maximum snark, it really discourages me from writing when I see you do that. :-(

Would it really hurt you so to treat people with opinions that differed from yours with even a modicum of respect?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:06 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


well, Ironmouth is indicative.
posted by clavdivs at 6:08 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


> it does seem to me that they're finally going in the right direction, at a fairly rapid pace.

For almost ten years, my response to this has been, "OK, when will they be done?" I never get an answer - no one has ever been willing to commit to an estimate, just "soon".

So, how long? Three years more? Five years? Ten? Twenty?

I distinctly remember being yelled at as a fool and worse, perhaps even around here, when I had the temerity to wonder if this war were going to be over before the 2004 elections...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 6:14 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


well, Ironmouth is indicative.

Of his propensity to rust and constant need for sanding and lubrication?
posted by Nomyte at 6:32 PM on July 10, 2011


Gosh, Ironmouth, you always leap in with maximum snark, it really discourages me from writing when I see you do that. :-(

Would it really hurt you so to treat people with opinions that differed from yours with even a modicum of respect?


May I first suggest that the sting of my snark might be due to the fact that I pointed out a mendacious argument.

Pointing out that a terrorist organization had very few people at the very time that it killed 2900 people in the most deadly and destructive terrorist attack of all time is utterly mendacious. It doesn't matter how many people they have it matters how effective they are. So to make statements like that one is to obscure more than reveal--and to do so deliberately.

I tell hard facts, yes.

There has been a long history of taking the obvious mistakes and errors made by this country and trying to turn them into the greatest ever record of infamy. That is wrong. The US has made plenty of terrible decisions of late, most certainly. But the idea that this is the worst ever time of military engagement by a great power is simply without basis--the historical record shows much worse.

Put it this way. Somehow, I am a terrible man for making a snarky comment and because I made it I somehow don't respect the opinions of others. But the second comment in this thread called Mr. Panetta a lying motherfucker out of pure spite. The fact is that although things are not perfect, the US is doing many orders of magnitude better under Obama in Afghanistan than it was under Bush. Anyone who actually follows the events in the country can see that we are in a situation of improvement, not decline. I follow this pretty intently and the operations in the last year have exceeded all goals and the knee-jerk reaction that "things are going terribly in Afghanistan" is simply not backed up by the facts. Things are going far better.

Will it be enough? I don't know. But we do better here when we are honest, when we say, yes Al Qaeda has been a threat, it has harmed others and yes, there are groups of terrorists inspired by them or affiliated with them which continue to attempt to mount attacks on the American public. We do not help our case--our arguments that excesses have occurred, that we have lost too much of ourselves--that we have often done our own cause more good than harm, when we minimize the damage that Al Qaeda has done by painting this as a question of how few hundreds served them, when those hundreds were able to take so many lives.

In the end, we have to convince a lot of other people that we need to make serious changes. Stupidly arguing that Al Qaeda was a "few hundred" at the time they killed three thousand people doesn't help us make that case.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:57 PM on July 10, 2011 [5 favorites]


ctrl + F "october surprise"

Nothing? Seriously?
Maybe because it's not October? Let alone October of an election year?
posted by Flunkie at 6:57 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


> if al Qaeda had attacked Israel, there membership would have been composed of less than a thousand dead people by 9/11/02. At a far smaller cost in money and innocent lives than our approach.

Yeah. Someone ought to give the Palestinians a heads up....
posted by c13 at 7:07 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


But the second comment in this thread called Mr. Panetta a lying motherfucker out of pure spite.

It was much, much more snark than spite. Panetta has actually done a bit more to move things forward than the folks who came before him. I was making a comment on a song-and-dance I have heard many times in my 50 years. Like it was mentioned above, it's always "insert evil guy(s) here" and we're always "just around the corner" from putting a cap on things.

We've been in Afghanistan for more than a decade. We've gotten in bed with Karzai, who is plainly a criminal. We've played pattycake and kissyface with Musharaff, when clearly Pakistan is not our friend. There is no way we are going to leave a stable region when we leave. Our only viable option now, or three years from now is to declare victory and come home.

The fact is that although things are not perfect, the US is doing many orders of magnitude better under Obama in Afghanistan than it was under Bush.

Well, no shit. Bush had other wars to fight.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:40 PM on July 10, 2011


> May I first suggest that the sting of my snark might be due to the fact that I pointed out a mendacious argument.

Mendacious means lying. Why don't you come out and say it?

But in fact you didn't address his argument at all, you simply snarked by stating something that not one person on this thread ever denied, which was that at one point, Al Qaeda managed to cause a lot of destruction.

> I am a terrible man for making a snarky comment

Perhaps a better phrase might be "completely disruptive of any adult discussion because of your inflammatory and snarky comments".

Al Qaeda was a few dozen savages in a cave, even in 9/11. Had the people who we pay exorbitant sums of money to protect us hadn't completely, totally and utterly fallen down on the job in multiple different ways then 9/11 would never have happened.

If you read the 9/11 commission report, time and again the right information about the 9/11 conspiracy had been found by dedicated workers at the lower levels and brought to the attention of management - who treated their actual responsibilities as a distinct second to inter- and intradepartmental politics and therefore ignored all the information that might have saved us.

Even after the dreadful failures before 9/11, it was a repeated failure of the system which allowed any planes to hit any buildings at all - NORAD was and is explicitly tasked with such protection and has usually done this quite well.

Near as I can tell, there's no evidence that the exact same Al Qaeda that got lucky in 9/11, the group headed by the late Osama Bin Laden, ever managed to really accomplish anything else. There have been more terrorist attacks since 9/11, including the anthrax attacks, the dreadful Bali bombings, and the London bombings - none of these turned out to be his organization or Al Qaeda at all.

Al Qaeda wasn't a group of superheroes in burnooses, it was a bunch of iron-age terrorists who happened to get lucky because their opponent's defense system was completely broken.

The fact that their single attack broke the United State's freedom wasn't an accident, though - they did say that the system was rotten from within and one good blow would bring it down, and they were completely right, much as it galls me to admit it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:42 PM on July 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


"For almost ten years, my response to this has been, "OK, when will they be done?" I never get an answer - no one has ever been willing to commit to an estimate, just "soon"."

Funny... I've head Obama say the end of all combat operations by early 2014 repeatedly, and yet, who knows?! At least one of the generals almost certainly will say something different... again... but last time I looked, Obama ignored the generals last time and said "start bringing troops home in larger than expected numbers, now."

So, yeah. I'd listen to him. It's probably going to be pretty close to the truth.
posted by markkraft at 7:48 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've head Obama say the end of all combat operations by early 2014 repeatedly

That doesn't mean they'll be done. We'll have troops there until the end of time, just like we have in every other country we've ever fought a war in or near.

We still have troops dying in Iraq, and we were supposedly "done" there a while ago.
posted by hippybear at 7:59 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


markkraft: so three years - if Mr. Obama stays in office. What if he doesn't?

And even so, three more years of warfare to go. That's much more than the whole length of war we were promised when we started.

I'm willing to bet good money that, if the United States hasn't collapsed by Independence Day 2014, there will still be American troops dying in Afghanistan. Anyone want to take me up?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:00 PM on July 10, 2011


Tom Friedman told me it'll be over in just another six months and he's always right about everything.
posted by bardic at 8:03 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


We've been in Afghanistan for more than a decade. We've gotten in bed with Karzai, who is plainly a criminal. We've played pattycake and kissyface with Musharaff, when clearly Pakistan is not our friend. There is no way we are going to leave a stable region when we leave. Our only viable option now, or three years from now is to declare victory and come home.

The problem is that you treat the pre-2009 situation as exactly the same as now. And you look for some sort of black and white certainty where none exists, anywhere on the face of the planet.

Things are always more complex than "he's a friend, he's an enemy." This is real life, not Super Mario Bros. Karzai has issues, big ones, as does every figure in the country. Bush put him in there. But the cost of just replacing him in a coup is greater than leaving in there. Had Massoud lived, we'd be in a different situation in the country. But it isn't a coincidence that he was killed by bin Laden days before 9/11.

Musharaf--again a Bush policy, he resigned before the current Administration took power. But they calculated, rightly, that he could help us--and they weren't going to try and overthrow him.

Pakistan is not our "friend" but that does not mean we can take some help from them from time to time. However, I think that ship has sailed, as we just cut off a huge pile of aid to them on Friday.

Al Qaeda was a few dozen savages in a cave, even in 9/11.

A few dozen savages which car-bombed the World Trade Center, killed a bunch of US sailors, blew up 2 US Embassies killing hundreds, and then destroyed utterly the World Trade Center. You can try to minimize them all you want, but they remain the greatest terrorist organization in world history. Minimizing them to put forward an agenda just makes us look dumb and unwilling to confront the truth. They've killed many Americans and probably more humans than any other terrorist group. I think you serve no one by minimizing it.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:09 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've head Obama say the end of all combat operations by early 2014 repeatedly

That doesn't mean they'll be done. We'll have troops there until the end of time, just like we have in every other country we've ever fought a war in or near.


This is literally, factually untrue, on so many levels. Obama has stuck to the timetables. Elements of the Iraqi military are pissed. Too bad, but we are going to go.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:12 PM on July 10, 2011


This is literally, factually untrue, on so many levels.

Which part? That we have troops all over the globe? That we have soldiers still dying in Iraq even though we ended combat operations there last year?

It's impossible to state from this point in time whether we'll abandon the Green Zone or not, because we are still there. Call me when we actually pull the last American soldier and the last contractor employee out of there, and I'll admit that I was wrong about Iraq.

And it's beyond impossible to say that it's literally factually untrue about Afghanistan, because we've not even really begun to wrap things up there nearly as much as we have in Iraq, which isn't really that much when you look at how many people we still have there.
posted by hippybear at 8:17 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand who they expect to buy this horseshit.
posted by Mavri at 8:34 PM on July 10, 2011


Saying they have crippled Osama bin Laden's organization seems pretty reasonable to me. They have killed him and many other leaders.

That is separate from claiming victory in Afghanistan or against terrorism in general.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:46 PM on July 10, 2011


This is literally, factually untrue, on so many levels.

Which part? That we have troops all over the globe? That we have soldiers still dying in Iraq even though we ended combat operations there last year?


The statement that we have never left a country we have engaged in a war in, and the statement that we will NEVER leave any of these countries. We will, no matter whose in charge, eventually leave these countries. There is no way US troops will be in Iraq until the heat death of the universe.

I'm hoping for an earlier exit, one on the timetable. We seem to be on it solid right now.

We do have troops all over the world yes. We're the most powerful country in the world. That has always happened with that country. I'd like to see us pull out of a lot of them, of course.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:22 PM on July 10, 2011


Ah yes, Anonymous is next, and after that, we'll win the war on communism!
posted by fuq at 9:35 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eighty Percent Of Al-Qaeda No. 2s Now Dead

The war on terror: just like the war on drugs. Another drug kingpin down, and we're that much closer to winning the war. Only a little farther folks. We're almost there.
posted by formless at 10:04 PM on July 10, 2011


A few dozen savages which car-bombed the World Trade Center, killed a bunch of US sailors, blew up 2 US Embassies killing hundreds, and then destroyed utterly the World Trade Center. You can try to minimize them all you want, but they remain the greatest terrorist organization in world history.

Bull Effing Shit.
The Bush administration was informed that Al Queda was planning to blow up a building in New York just weeks before it actually happened. They chose to ignore and NOT act on that Intel. We all remember the memorandum that Condi Rice was photographed handing the administration. ALSO the Bush administration chose to ignore, silence and disgrace anyone who gave them intel that they did not wish to hear. Even the odd pilot training requests were reported by the flight training centers in Florida to the administration..... crickets....

It was not the "brilliant and masterminds " of Al Queda that brought down the World Trade Centers. It was the utter incompetence of the Bush administration that did that. Ironmouth.... we live on completely different planets you and I.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:18 PM on July 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


/facepalm
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:24 PM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


What Panetta said was that AQ is pretty much done as an organization that can cause dramatic harm to the US.

Yeah. AQ's been a dying organization since Ayman al-Zawahiri organized the Luxor Massacre. the spectacular terror attacks were the last throes of an organization that had lost any ability to command the obedience of large numbers of followers.

The notion they would ever be able to create a global caliphate was a half-baked phantasy. What AQ and the other jihadists were able to do was delay the push for pluralism in Islamic societies that had progressed beyond tribalism. Bin Laden was all about trying to depose the Saudis and al-Zawahiri was all about seizing power in Egypt. They were both losers on their own turf and dangerous goofs elsewhere.

The move towards liberalization we saw this year as the "Arab Spring" was ready to happen in the late '90's. That was where people's aspirations were leading them, not down some regressive sinkhole.

Jihadism will only remain viable in tribal societies and only there while the tensions between traditional tribalism and modernization remain unresolved. It's an atavistic revitalization movement like the Ghost Dance or Aryan Nations -- dangerous but historically doomed.
posted by warbaby at 10:33 PM on July 10, 2011


--There is no telegraphing here--

Perhaps you're right Jedicus. It's 12-step kabuki chess and he's just left the CIA so I doubt that it's merely crowing about the OBL kill on Obama's and his account. It is interesting that Panetta's statement is given out as BO raises the idea of a grand $4T deficit bargain though. I can't explain the House vote other than to think that it's natural tactics for a prez to want to obtain as much power/money as possible to give latitude to decision making*; and the tea party desire to thwack BO on any measure, even defense, apparently knows no bounds.
*There had been a reasonable saving in the last year with the termination of some ginormous weapons project that Bob Gates signed off on too
posted by peacay at 11:09 PM on July 10, 2011


> they remain the greatest terrorist organization in world history.

Except for the IRA, the Shining Path, the Tamil Tigers, and those were just the first three that came to mind that I was able to prove have killed many times more people than AQ, as well as committing targeted assassinations, many acts of sabotage of infrastructure, and having much longer histories than AQ.

And of course, this is ignoring history. Some people claim the Thuggees of India killed millions, though I tend to believe the smaller 50,000 number - and you might also quibble as to whether they were terrorists, but I think terror for religious reasons is terrorism as much as terror for political reasons.

Regardless, AQ certainly isn't anywhere near the top three terrorist organizations of history and probably doesn't make the top twenty if you scale for population size.

The CIA has caused the deaths of far more people through terrorism than Al Qaeda or any of these terrorist organizations in South and Central America alone. The US has caused the pointless deaths of more of its own citizens in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than AQ ever did.

There would be much more improvement in the world if the US actually took the teachings of Jesus seriously and gave up its multigenerational program of eternal warfare than if all the handful of remaining AQ soldiers converted to Sufism and renounced of violence.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:17 PM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


than if all the handful of remaining AQ soldiers converted to Sufism and renounced of violence.

I get what you're saying, but "sufism" as such isn't something Muslims convert to. Bear in mind that much of the jihad fought in the southern Russian/Caucusus region was waged by adherents of the Naqshbandi sufi order, both historically and in modern times. The notion of sufis as hippies is a modern invention.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 11:45 PM on July 10, 2011


> I get what you're saying, but "sufism" as such isn't something Muslims convert to.

Yes yes, I was looking for something to contrast "the US embracing true Christianity" and probably this was a poor jump. Simply delete "converted to Sufism and" from that previous post.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:57 PM on July 10, 2011


Excellent. So who's up next? Another crack at Somalia?
posted by Segundus at 1:04 AM on July 11, 2011


Oh look - another MeFi thread about Al Qaeda full of intelligence experts, their completely objective opinions utterly unclouded by personal politics, expressed without tired cliches.

*slow clap*
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:46 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tom Friedman told me it'll be over in just another six months and he's always right about everything.

The Friedman Unit
posted by srboisvert at 2:04 AM on July 11, 2011


This is literally, factually untrue, on so many levels.

Which part? That we have troops all over the globe? That we have soldiers still dying in Iraq even though we ended combat operations there last year?

The statement that we have never left a country we have engaged in a war in


You are correct. We don't have any troops in Vietnam or Grenada. The rest of 'em? Yeah, pretty much permanent military bases of some flavor or other.
posted by hippybear at 3:40 AM on July 11, 2011


I have come to the conclusion that the only real and potent enemy of the American people is the military-industrial complex.

The thing I find hilarious is that our own president warned us about this fifty years ago. Not some crackpot, or some political theorist or entertainment personality. Our own president, and five-star general to boot. I mean, you'd think if anyone was in more of a perfect position to issue a warning and for that warning to be heeded, that would be it. Nope.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:20 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eisenhower said in the same speech, "A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction."

So, yeah, make of that famous statement what you will, but he wasn't exactly doing some major turnabout and dancing on the grave of the military-industrial complex when he said those words. There were no drastic cuts in military spending in his administration -- none. And his machinations in Guatemala don't support the idea that he was some covert anti-military prophet.
posted by blucevalo at 6:25 AM on July 11, 2011


The Bush administration was informed that Al Queda was planning to blow up a building in New York just weeks before it actually happened. They chose to ignore and NOT act on that Intel. We all remember the memorandum that Condi Rice was photographed handing the administration.

Huh? I agree that Bush was asleep at the switch, but he was most definitely not told that they wanted to blow up a building in NY. That's like saying cats like tuna. Our case is best made by being honest about the facts.

The idea that the IRA some how is a greater terrorist organization is laughable. They did not destroy the largest office complex in Britain while hijacking 4 airliners at the same time, and flying one into British GHQ, all while killing 3000. Nor did the Shining Path or the Tamil Tigers. There is no comparison.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:25 AM on July 11, 2011


They didn't know the details of the attack, but they knew one was coming soon. Given what the CIA knew in August 2001, a responsible executive would have led a vigorous investigation of the risk, not stayed in Crawford clearing brush.
The alarming August 6, 2001, memo from the CIA to the President—"Bin Laden determined to strike in US"—has been widely noted in the past few years.

But, also in August, CIA analysts flew to Crawford to personally brief the President—to intrude on his vacation with face-to-face alerts.

The analytical arm of CIA was in a kind of panic mode at this point. Other intelligence services, including those from the Arab world, were sounding an alarm. The arrows were all in the red. They didn't know place or time of an attack, but something was coming. The President needed to know.

...at [this meeting], George W. Bush seems to have made the wrong choice.

He looked hard at the panicked CIA briefer.

"All right," he said. "You've covered your ass, now."
posted by Coventry at 7:50 AM on July 11, 2011


> [...] laughable

Ironmouth: would it really hurt you to try to be polite for even a single posting?

These other terrorist organizations ran successful decades-long guerilla warfare operations against strong resistance that amounted to a generations-long state of civil war in the "host" countries. For example, the Shining Path is estimated to have murdered over 31,000 people over 20 years.

Apparently your gold standard for terrorism is exactly taking down the World Trade Center with airplanes, so by your definition nothing could ever equal it.

But by any objective measure you care to name - the number of people dead, the number of casualties (wounded and killed), the economic damage to the country, the number of individuals directly affected, the length of time that the attacks continued - by any objective measure I can conceive of, The Shining Path alone is many times more destructive than Al Qaeda - and that's not even taking into account the fact that Peru has about one-tenth the population of the US.

I've also been very careful only to cite examples that are classic "terrorists". In my mind, the difference between terroristic government organizations and terroristic free-lancers is tiny, in which case the Khmer Rouge or the US government have killing totals that make AQ look like rank amateurs.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:31 AM on July 11, 2011


You are correct. We don't have any troops in Vietnam or Grenada. The rest of 'em? Yeah, pretty much permanent military bases of some flavor or other.

Lets do some math!

Here is a list of countries that the US has had some sort of armed conflict with, since 1776. Those countries in bold also contain some sort of US presence.

Afghanistan
Austria-Hungry
Bulgaria
China
Cuba
Dominican Republic
Germany
Great Britain
Haiti
Hungary
Italy
Iraq
Japan
Korea
Mexico
Mozambique
Panama
Paraguay
Romania
Russia
Spain
Syria
Vietnam
Yugoslavia

So out of 24 counties with whom there has been conflict, the US has maintained some sort of permanent presence in 10. That's 41%.

Here's a list of countries that the US has a military presence in without having had a previous conflict:

Bahrain
Brazil
Israel
Kuwait
Kosovo
Guam
Greece
Australia
Greenland
Qutar
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
Kyrgyzstan
The Netherlands
Portugal
Turkey

So when you add the two lists together, you have 40 countries with a US military presence, only 10 of which the US has had military conflicts with. Or, to put it another way, the US has only built 25% of their foreign bases in countries they've had military conflict with.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:12 AM on July 11, 2011


It was not the "brilliant and masterminds " of Al Queda that brought down the World Trade Centers. It was the utter incompetence of the Bush administration that did that.

A bit from column A, bit from column B.

Their self-serving myopia and incompetence was most definitely responsible for the wake that followed though. Which while not as spectacular a failure, really really screwed the U.S. for a long time. So someone shoots you (9/11) - then you throw yourself in front of an oncoming train (all the policies that followed).
Well, yeah, getting shot can kill someone but ...

Anyway, bit of perspective here. Anarchists used to be terrifying worldwide.
No, really.

The actual political philosophy, what it means now, what a real anarchist is - all that aside.

It used to have the same sort of jelly that The Base had/has as a popular reputation in the world media (has to be 'jelly' cos jam doesn't shake like that).
Dangerous idea. Fanatics. All that. (Communists too)

Watch Citizen Kane again and where Kane tells one of his reporters to call someone an "anarchist. Loudly, so that the neighbors can hear." Replace "suspiciously Jewish name 'Silverstone' (many Jews were involved with anarchism back in the day) with, say "Mutasim" and "anarchist" with "Muslim terrorist" and the bit gains a darker foreshadowing than just the playful banter.

Although it was a bit less scary by '41 when 'Kane' was made. The Wall Street Bombing was only 20 years before. And at that time, in the 1920s, then DOJ AG Palmer recommended sweeping and drastic changes in the law to deal with anarchists and other disturbing elements, and for (previously denied) larger budget appropriations, etc. etc.

The more things change ...

State terrorism and revolutionary terrorism tend to follow in reciprocal vicious circles. Which is why a law enforcement approach is so crucial. For a variety of reasons I've reiterated time and again - but most importantly, it's at least a new approach.

Back in the Roman Empire, Sextus Pompey was illegally executed without trial (illegal because he was a Roman citizen). This was just after Julius Caesar was killed by a lone knifeman from a 1970's Funk band with a big horn section (maybe I'm missing some details but the core thing here is about right) and there was a big political struggle going on with some political coalitions forming up and although Sextus Pompey was a big name, he was reduced in the histories to a two bit pirate (terrorist).

There were the Sicarii who prompted the Roman response, and then Masada, which created more resistance.

The point, if not clear, is to look at these patterns dispassionately and discern how to break them. However successful or unsuccessful any given terrorist group is, presently or throughout history, is irrelevant if we cannot end the pattern of extreme act following extreme response following extreme act.

Placing terrorists within the sphere of domestic crime, philosophically, engages them within the system and serves to reinforce the integrity of law.

Continuing a military response, no matter how successful, as a matter of policy invites extra-legal or blatantly illegal acts by the state and only legitimizes the arguments of state hypocrisy. As noted above, anyone can rack up a swell body count, but it's political engagement/inclusion that kills the terror machine.

This is not to argue the matter of killing terrorists when no other option exists. But to assert that as a matter of policy the U.S. should not be assuming other options don't exist at all.
We have captured and successfully tried terrorists in the past. There's no question it can be done.

And if we want to avoid following the same self-destructive pattern so many other states, empires and organizations have followed in the past we need to stop treating terrorist acts as though the state response were somehow exempted from the law.

And we need to stop treating terrorist organizations as though they were just soooo special they warrant an illegal response.
It's not only what they want, it's ultimately corrosive to any state that engages in that pattern.
So, in short, no the war can't be won as long as it's treated like "a war" by the state (which is a period of suspension of domestic law) no matter who it is we're fighting.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:16 AM on July 11, 2011


The idea that the IRA some how is a greater terrorist organization is laughable. They did not destroy the largest office complex in Britain while hijacking 4 airliners at the same time, and flying one into British GHQ, all while killing 3000. Nor did the Shining Path or the Tamil Tigers. There is no comparison.

I agree the spectacular nature of the Al Qaeda attacks puts them #1 in the terrorist power rankings, but you are the one who brought body count in as a measure.

They've killed many Americans and probably more humans than any other terrorist group.


So it's a bit disingenuous to move the goal posts and call it laughable that someone pointed out you were way wrong on that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:03 PM on July 11, 2011






Summary by Glenn Greenwald.
"...the U.S. Government is able to persuade the populace to continue to support and pay for blood-spilling and liberty-destroying policies in the name of Terrorism when nothing sustains and exacerbates the threat of Terrorism more than those very policies."
posted by sneebler at 11:10 AM on July 12, 2011


Placing terrorists within the sphere of domestic crime, philosophically, engages them within the system and serves to reinforce the integrity of law.

In roman republic, law is run by criminal means. (papa magnus killed Carbo, illegal under roman law)
pompey called terrorist by the Marians (Caesar belonged to Cinna co., the sucessor to Marian enterprises) Sulla dies, P. Mangus is the man with Caesar after a while. Magnus and this jugband call Caesar a terrorist and he is all WTF, why you want to deny me my rights...you get it.

integrity of the law is only as stong as the blade if any justice is sought.

Pompey III was a first rate pirate who used food as a weapon and terrorized spain then his old man screwed the pooch.
posted by clavdivs at 11:42 AM on July 12, 2011


Excellent. So who's up next? Another crack at Somalia?

U.S. Expands Its Drone War Into Somalia

The CIA's Secret Sites in Somalia
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on July 12, 2011




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