Friday, June 09, 2006

Special K

Why did K-Lo have to go and ruin it? I was perfectly comfortable treating today as a cause for celebration - albeit a macabre one - based on the news of Zarqawi's death. Nadezhda even put a cherry on top by citing a story in the Washington Post that told of a surprisingly quick and broadly supported resolution (finally) to the issue of filling the posts of interior minister, defense minister and "the country's top official for national security." Prime Minister Maliki selected, and the parliament approved, a Shiite, Sunni and Kurd, respectively, to head these three vital ministries. And supposedly the Shiite candidate heading Interior: "is not connected to Shiite militias." Now that would be a massive step in the right direction.

But then K-Lo had to go and say something that made me think twice about the positive momentum gathering steam [emphasis mine throughout]:

I just had a brief chat with our David Pryce-Jones, whose spirits couldn’t be higher this afternoon (in England). He calls Zarqawi’s demise both a “collassal morale boost” for all of us but says it also has “big operational significance.” “When you get rid of a leader, it’s very hard to replace him.” The Israelis have proved this time and time again. And while we'll of course likely see stepped up terrorist attacks in the coming days and weeks, David predicts the enemy there will be severely wounded by their loss.

Huh? The Israelis have proved this time and again? Doesn't the fact that one would have to prove it "time and again" sort of suggest that the each such instance wasn't such a "big operational success"? And if they have had such massive victories so often, why the, you know, ongoing problems and stuff?

As Matt Y put it:

The Israelis certainly have proven a lot of things about the tactical/operational aspects of counterterrorism time and again. And, indeed, again. And again. They've proven them so often, for so long, that one might almost conclude that tactical counterterrorism accomplishes very little absent resolution of the underlying political conflicts.

Now that K-Lo has busted up my groove, would it be inappropriate for me to rain a little on the parade and point out that while last night's neutralizing of Zarqawi was great and all, the Bush administration sort of chose not to make that happen prior to the invasion. From the Wall Street Journal:

As the toll of mayhem inspired by terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi mounts in Iraq, some former officials and military officers increasingly wonder whether the Bush administration made a mistake months before the start of the war by stopping the military from attacking his camp in the northeastern part of that country.

The Pentagon drew up detailed plans in June 2002, giving the administration a series of options for a military strike on the camp Mr. Zarqawi was running then in remote northeastern Iraq, according to generals who were involved directly in planning the attack and several former White House staffers. They said the camp, near the town of Khurmal, was known to contain Mr. Zarqawi and his supporters as well as al Qaeda fighters, all of whom had fled from Afghanistan. Intelligence indicated the camp was training recruits and making poisons for attacks against the West.[...]

But the raid on Mr. Zarqawi didn't take place. Months passed with no approval of the plan from the White House, until word came down just weeks before the March 19, 2003, start of the Iraq war that Mr. Bush had rejected any strike on the camp until after an official outbreak of hostilities with Iraq. Ultimately, the camp was hit just after the invasion of Iraq began.

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who was in the White House as the National Security Council's director for combatting terrorism at the time, said an NSC working group, led by the Defense Department, had been in charge of reviewing the plans to target the camp. She said the camp was "definitely a stronghold, and we knew that certain individuals were there including Zarqawi." Ms. Gordon-Hagerty said she wasn't part of the working group and never learned the reason why the camp wasn't hit. But she said that much later, when reports surfaced that Mr. Zarqawi was behind a series of bloody attacks in Iraq, she said "I remember my response," adding, "I said why didn't we get that ['son of a b-'] when we could."[...]

Some former officials said the intelligence on Mr. Zarqawi's whereabouts was sound. In addition, retired Gen. John M. Keane, the U.S. Army's vice chief of staff when the strike was considered, said that because the camp was isolated in the thinly populated, mountainous borderlands of northeastern Iraq, the risk of collateral damage was minimal. Former military officials said that adding to the target's allure was intelligence indicating that Mr. Zarqawi himself was in the camp at the time. A strike at the camp, they believed, meant at least a chance of killing or incapacitating him.

Gen. Keane characterized the camp "as one of the best targets we ever had," and questioned the decision not to attack it. When the U.S. did strike the camp a day after the war started, Mr. Zarqawi, many of his followers and Kurdish extremists belonging to his organization already had fled, people involved with intelligence say.[...]

Questions about whether the U.S. missed an opportunity to take out Mr. Zarqawi have been enhanced recently by a CIA report on Mr. Zarqawi, commissioned by Vice President Dick Cheney. Individuals who have been briefed on the report's contents say it specifically cites evidence that Mr. Zarqawi was in the camp during those prewar months. They said the CIA's conclusion was based in part on a review of electronic intercepts, which show that Mr. Zarqawi was using a satellite telephone to discuss matters relating to the camp, and that the intercepts indicated the probability that the calls were being made from inside the camp.

There. I said it.

(cross-posted at American Footprints yesterday, but due to problems with Blogger, I was not able to get it on TIA until today. Apologies to the TIA loyalists)

Maybe someone should send K-Lo a few primers on the type of war the US is fighting in Iraq - like Martin Van Creveld's Transformation of War. It's only been around since 1991, and Van Creveld's only been saying for decades what Matt Y and Haggai (in comments) have noted about "taking lessons" from the Israelis. On second thought. . . nah. -- nadezhda

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