Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 4, 2011

Opening But Not Ending

I must admit that like most of you (I assume) the news that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden and recovered his body from a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan came as a bit of a surprise. But my surprise at that fact pales in comparison to my impressions arising from the openness displayed by the administration in discussing details of the operation and its implications on future policy options.

Much of what needs to be said about the skill and courage of the President and those who conceived and carried out the mission has been said many times over in the past few days. How salient is it, however, that we can acknowledge and discuss the basis for our opinions about the performance of these individuals rather than relying solely on our predispositions to trust the opinions of others? In light of the consequences of public opinion on ongoing support for operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, it strikes me a particularly important that people not only can reach conclusions of their own about these actions, but also that they seem to be doing so without any particular help from the punditocracy. (This, of course, in no way deterred the talking heads from babbling, often incoherently, about the whole affair. Despite substantiation of leaks about the subject of the President’s remarks, their distracting dialectic diminished in quality as the interval between the scheduled start of President Obama’s address and his actual appearance became increasingly delayed.)

The policy environment surrounding national defense and homeland security are filled with discontinuities and uncertainty despite bin Laden’s demise. How will we end our involvement in Afghanistan? Will the government of Iraq to extend agreements for the U.S. military to continue advice and support arrangements? How will the administration and Congress resolve their pitched political differences over fiscal restraint and debt reduction without undermining our ability to meet commitments here and abroad?

Notwithstanding the release of some erroneous information that has required correction and elaboration today, the administration seems to have done itself (and us) a huge favor by making as clear as possible the basis of its assessment that al-Qaeda and its affiliates remain a threat to the U.S. and its interests. They have also made it clear that lessons about cooperation and information sharing have been learned. And perhaps most important of all, they have demonstrated the potency of patience, confidence, determination and resolve when exercised in the right proportions.

These lessons reinforce one last point: The success of this operation was not so much the product of superior technology or the investments of vast sums of money (although both undoubtedly helped ensure the careful and skillful execution of this mission), but rather the diligent and precise application of human and social skills in gathering, processing and acting on intelligence, which included precise and scrupulous attention to the most minute details.

Much more of this story remains yet to be told. But this should not hinder our understanding of the extraordinary efforts that led to this achievement nor discourage us from continuing the work required to protect our country and others affected by the threat of violent extremism.

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6 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 4, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

So does this event indicate the USA should have adopted counter terrorism not COIN (counter insurgency) as its modus vivendi in the Islamic World?

The more we learn about the operational role of UBL from his compound in the last six years the more it looks like the use of a DIKTAT to Pakistan for coughing up the collaborators or supporters of UBL in high ranking positions in Pakitstan since 9/11/01! IMO of course.

So we (USA) now know that both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are the principal enablers of AQ and international Jihadis?

Comment by Mark Chubb

May 4, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

I am inclined to agree with you Bill. Our interventions into the MENA region and our support for regimes there seems to have done us far more harm than good over the long haul. Indeed, this is one of the principal arguments for realigning our national security priorities as Chris Bellavita summarized nicely on Tuesday.

If Chris had not beaten me to the punch with this argument and my weekly spot had not been subsumed by the events in Pakistan, I had planned to discuss an article in the Economist last week that said much the same thing as the sources Chris cited.

We have to get past thinking that suggests spending money on national security means buying military supremacy. I think this administration, or at least this president, thinks so too, which may help explain why he is so reluctant to subscribe to an overarching much less over-reaching foreign policy doctrine or agenda. He is good at making strategic decisions that do not depend upon a fixed worldview, and I believe this is exactly the kind of leadership we need right now.

Like you, I am waiting to see what we learn about the Pakistani military’s role in affording bin Laden safe haven in plain site. I am also quite keen to see how the administration supports movements for democratic change in the MENA region without picking winners or losers.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 4, 2011 @ 11:50 pm

Agree that playing the hand you are dealt skillfully rather than emotionally might just open some new opportunities for USA foreign policy and relations.
What the world thinks now of USA efforts and the Islamic world in particular could be key. But what the USA decides to do next could get the jackpot.

Comment by John Comiskey

May 5, 2011 @ 6:27 am

And we are now men, and must accept in the highest mind the same transcendent destiny;
and not minors and invalids in a protected corner;
not cowards fleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers and benefactors,
obeying the Almighty effort and advancing on Chaos and the Dark.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance (1841)

Worldview strategy flexibility requires government flexibility and that is something the US is in want of.

Executive worldview policy, the what and why, is bogged down in 18th century policy implementation procedures that do not make the mark for 21st century governance. Absent national emergencies, we hamstring our executive.

The annual National Security Strategy (last published May 2010) “suggests” national security policy without the force of law.

NSS 2010 speaks to a democratic and moral plane of governance. O’s preface letter argues that “Our long term security will come not from our ability to instill fear in other peoples, but through our capacity to speak to their hopes ….But even as we are tested by new challenges, the question of our future is not one that will be answered for us, it is one that will be answered by us.”

Future threats to our National Security also include an emerging cradle-to-the grave entitlement mindset, a dysfunctional education system, a frail economic system, and climate change.

Our priorities should include an objective cost-benefit risk analysis: apolitical and a-emotional.

Comment by Christopher Tingus

May 5, 2011 @ 7:34 am

Interesting, however behind the scenes all have known about the “cash” deals being done in the basement of the palace as the Pakistani leadership has never veered from its corrupt ways or the backroom talks w/the “Brutes of Tehran” and dare one to challenge those in any such discussions as anti-American — com’on fellows with all your intellectualism at the WH and accolades of self and colleagues, you bet the Navy Seals did their job and you can bet our military frm highest ranks to the newly trained recruit cannot be questioned in such way as the “beltway bandits” who have given the keys to the Chinese and the Germans —

Prepared for anything much when it comes to catastrophic event here…I doubt DHS can handle as the bureacracy and political appointees have neither the experience, the discipline or the “resilience” to take action — chaos will prevail…

Our beloved flag flies high in the sky this morning in appreciation for the Pentagon, DoD, NSA and all the intel folks who really keep us safeguarded — whether the NYPD, LAPD and so many others we hear little about, yet my porch flag flies upside down in distress for Hank et al have a deficit which now has bankrupted us nearly $15 trillion fiat fed reserve notes – some call dollars —

UBL cots us billions and we knew eh was coming back to get the twin towers and stab the already NYC Wall Street eroding financial center with the cut throat bankers who we now see with much clarity as they still in their arrogant manner take their big salaries and bonuses while foreclosures are up 9% and families, fellow American families, their little kids are thrown out of their houses and schools…

What dastardly deeds continue right here on Main Street USA as a result of the self-impressed, arroogant who pitray such demeanor to thse less fortunate – the victims — while we still send billions to the Pakistani hoodlums when these monies could have helped those in hoax modification programns especially portraying the broken promise of you Barry…

My question to the “infrormed” intellectuals and those who believe the strength of the DHS and our preparedness…it took us ten years to oust UBL when he sat in the midst of the people and very close to training camps…my question is…why have not we found Whitey Bulger? Here in Massachusetts where the MA/DOR treats fellow citizens like criminals when in proper appeal in tax challenges and the politicians themselves very much like Congress pat each other n the back in their corrupt ways s influenced by special interest groups, etc., where is Whitey Bulger and when will we stop believing We know so much when the Middle East is about to explode with a shoock and awe show which will come at no surpise to the truly enlightened, not a WH and partisan Congress and in fact, eight previous Presidents of both parties who have never truly establish an energy policy and Mobil/Exxon and so many others reap hugh profits while the same being foreclosed upon by the banking hoodlums cannot afford $4.17 a gallon for gasoline and whose 275 galloon oil tanks here in New England are empty beacuse it costs more than $400 for every 100 gallons of oil and the government – yes, Barry, you and your inexperienced WH staffers sends monies to Pakistan when you could be supplementing Americans – We here on Main Street USA —

The Middle East is about to make a transformation which will cause much anguish for many — get enlightened to the way the world works for the world is no longer centered in Washington or on Wall Street fr that matter — We are a broke nation –

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich, MA 02645 USA

God Bless America!

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 5, 2011 @ 7:44 am

Well some help from technology in the now revealed “quiet” heliocopter program and evidence of destruction of that new copter by thermite grenades which drastically lengthened mission no doubt as making sure no sensitive equipment or materials left behind.

Wonder if the Chinese will be paying Pakistan for cinders or other traces of technology utilized in raid?

A detailed documentation of Chines and Pakistani connections is long overdue including nuclear arsenal development and technological support.

Maybe like JFK during “Cuber” crisis the Chinese should be informed that any use of their nuclear capability or technology by any other nation-state will be viewed as strike by Soviet Union on mainland USA?

Lot’s of false options and real options now for the Obama Administration.

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