Tuesday, July 15, 2008
(7:04 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
A worryIs Obama asking us to get out of the impossible war in Iraq so that we can become more embroiled in the, if anything, even-more-impossible war in Afghanistan?
Isn't there some kind of third option that doesn't involve responding to terrorism with an interminable military occupation? For instance, maybe Obama could consider saying that, in addition to using 9/11 as a pretext for a war against a completely unrelated war, Bush was criminally negligent in allowing the attack to happen in the first place. That is to say, one crucial, yet oft-overlooked, tool in our anti-terrorism arsenal might be basic competence -- paying attention to memos entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike the US," for instance.
I've repeated this often, but two of the 9/11 hijackers were living with an FBI informant! It doesn't take a vivid imagination to envision actually catching them before they attacked, rendering the interminable occupation of any country -- even a country that provided a training ground for the failed attackers -- completely unnecessary. Conspiring to kill a bunch of people is actually considered a crime in itself, believe it or not, so we could've just put the would-be attackers in prison.
Hell, we probably could've also managed to avoid the whole thing where we rounded up foreigners more or less at random and tortured them for six straight years, too, simply by following traditional law-enforcement and intelligence-gathering practices whereby we assume a goatherd is just a goatherd unless we have a really good reason to think otherwise. Once we identified probable members of the conspiracies, then we could've tried to extract information through some kind of incentives and negotiation rather than through sheer brute force -- perhaps even getting some of them to wear wires, etc. You know, like on TV when they're trying to infiltrate the mob! A lot of these terrorists are engineers, etc., so maybe that strategy would even produce a situation where instead of assuming that swarthy people are terrorists, we assume that the newly-arrived swarthy engineer is in the witness protection program because he helped to unravel a terrorist organization. A hero, really.
But no -- instead of going that far, let's depart like two steps from Bush: yes, the proper response to 9/11 is an insane nation-building project, but in Afghanistan, not Iraq.