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Why Nobody Saw 9/11 Coming
| PETER R. NEUMAN
Posted on 03/27/2004 6:05:50 AM PST by Ranger
ONDON Did the Bush administration, before the 9/11 attacks, fail to take terrorism seriously enough? At first the contention seems unlikely. Isn't this the most hawkish administration in living memory? Wasn't it President Bush who coined the phrase "war on terror"?
Yet in the current hearings on the attacks and in the controversy surrounding the new book by Richard A. Clarke, the administration's first counterterrorism chief the words "neglect" and "failure" keep cropping up.
And there is something to these accusations although perhaps not in the sense that the people making them intend. The administration's early failures on terrorism cannot be pinned down to individual instances of "neglect." To understand what really went wrong, we need to go back to the last decades of the cold war, when people like Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and Vice President Dick Cheney first started to make sense of terrorism.
In the 1970's and 80's, the predominant view among Washington hawks was that none of the various terrorist groups that operated in Western Europe and the Middle East was truly independent. They were all connected through a vast terrorist network, which was created and supported by the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. The Communists' aim, the hawks believed, was to destabilize the Western societies without being directly linked to violence.
It all seemed to make perfect sense, and books like "The Terror Network" by Claire Sterling, which argued the network hypothesis with considerable force and conviction, became essential reading for anyone who wanted to make his way in the Reagan White House.
The idea that the sinister hand of the Kremlin was behind groups like the Italian Red Brigades and even the Irish Republican Army revealed the deep sense of paranoia within political circles at the time. More important, the idea of the Communist terrorism network buttressed the conservative fixation on states as the only major actors in the international political system.
According to the classically "realist" mindset, only states can pose a significant threat to the national security of other states, because lesser actors simply do not have the capacity, sophistication and resources to do so. Hence, if terrorists suddenly became effective in destabilizing countries like Italy, they couldn't possibly have acted on their own. They must have had state sponsors, and it was only by tackling the state sponsors (in this case, the Soviet bloc), that you could root out the terrorists.
During the cold war, the paradigm of "state-sponsored terrorism" was useful, if not entirely correct. Most terrorists did receive help from states, and there were some links between disparate groups, although not to the extent that many in the United States believed. And some of the worst atrocities like the 1983 attack on United States military headquarters in Beirut were in fact carried out by groups that had been created by "rogue states" like Iran, Libya and Syria.
With the end of the cold war, however, things changed. While there was no longer a prime state sponsor for any "terror network," there was also no longer any need for one. It became easy to travel from one country to another. Money could be collected and transferred around the globe. Cell phones and the Internet made it possible to maintain tight control of an elusive group that could move its "headquarters" across continents. In fact, by the end of the decade, it seemed as if the model of state-sponsored terrorism had effectively been reversed: Al Qaeda was now in charge of a state Afghanistan under the Taliban rather than vice versa.
But the Washington hawks failed to see what was happening. The world around them had changed, but their paradigm hadn't. For them, states continued to be the only real movers and shakers in the international system, and any serious "strategic" threat to America's security could only come from an established nation.
Consider an article in the January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine by Condoleezza Rice, titled "Campaign 2000 Promoting the National Interest." Ms. Rice, spelling out the foreign policy priorities of a Bush White House, argued that after years of drift under the Clinton administration, United States foreign policy had to concentrate on the "real challenges" to American security. This included renewing "strong and intimate relationships" with allies, and focusing on "big powers, particularly Russia and China." In Ms. Rice's view, the threat of non-state terrorism was a secondary problem in her to do list" it was under the category of "rogue regimes," to be tackled best by dealing "decisively with the threat of hostile powers."
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that there was relatively little interest in Al Qaeda when the Bush team took over. For most of 2001, the national security agenda really consisted of only two items, neither of which had anything to do with the terrorist threat of radical Islam. First, the administration increased its efforts to bring about regime change in Iraq, which was believed to be the prime source of instability in a region of great strategic importance.
The second goal was a more competitive stance toward China. Missile defense this time against attack by China and North Korea was put back on the table. Even the collision of an American spy plane with a Chinese fighter in 2001 is an indication of the administration's mindset intelligence resources were deployed not to find Osama bin Laden, but to monitor what many White House hawks considered the most likely future challenger of American power.
Sept. 11, 2001, brought about a quick re-orientation of foreign policy. What didn't change, however, was the state-centered mindset of the people who were in charge. According to Mr. Clarke, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld immediately suspected Saddam Hussein, and suggested military strikes against Iraq. While cooler heads prevailed at the time, and there was a real effort to track down and destroy the Qaeda network, there was also a reluctance to abandon the idea that terrorism had to be state-based. Hence the administration's insistence that there must be an "axis of evil" a group of states critical in sustaining the terrorists. It was an attempt to reconcile the new, confusing reality with long-established paradigm of state sponsorship.
In the end, the 9/11 hearings are likely to find that the intelligence failure that led to the horrific attacks stemmed from the longstanding problems of wrongly placed agents, failed communications between government departments and lack of resources. But it was also a failure of vision one for which the current administration must take responsibility.
Peter R. Neumann is a research fellow in international terrorism at the Department of War Studies, King's College London.
TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: 911; 911commission; alqaeda; condoleezzarice; intelligencefailure; prequel; richardclarke; terrorism
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posted on 03/27/2004 6:05:51 AM PST
1. Rep. Christopher Shays, chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, said that in June 2000 Clark told the subcommittee there was "no need for an assessment" of the terrorist threat.
Three national commissions concluded the US needed a comprehensive threat assessment and a national strategy. Shays held 20 hearings pre 9/11 and on June 28, 2000 he asked Mr. Clarke, then serving as Clinton's Special Assistant and National Coordinator, Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism, when an all source threat assessment and strategy would be completed.
Clark answered "No assessment has been done, and there is no need for an assessment. I know the threat."
2. In 2000, the Department of Defense Worldwide Conference on Terrorism asked Mr. Clarke's assistant when a national strategy on terrorism would be completed. The assistant responded that a strategy was being developed (in 2000 - the last year of the Clinton presidency). However, no national strategy to combat terrorism was every produced during the Clinton administration.
3. 911 Commissioner Lehman noted to Clarke on Tuesday that his 15 hours of private testimony differed substantially from his public testimony. So substantially that Lehman told Clarke he couldn't believe it. As a result of that, the White House is seeking to declassify whether Clarke lied under oath.
4. On page 127 of Clarke's new book "Against All Enemies", Clarke notes that it's possible that al Qaida operatives in the Phillipes "taught Terry Nichols how to blow up the Oklahoma Federal Building." Intelligence places Nichols there on the same days as Ramzi Yousef, and "we do know that Nichols's bombs did not work before his Philippines stay and were deadly when he returned."
And yet, the Clinton administration focused exclusively on homegrown terrorists, and never talked publicly about this matter. Laurie Mylroie, formerly of the Clinton administration, and others, have since talked about the Iraqi connection to the OKC bombing frequently. Yet your news organization has been largely if not completely silent.
5. Despite Clarke's assertion that he is non-partisan, a few moments research into public records indicates that Clarke has only donated to Democrat's campaigns, never to Republicans.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:10:23 AM PST
Actually Clinton coined the phrase "war on terror" after the first attack on the world trade center, only it was just another sound byte for him.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:11:06 AM PST
I wish I could send the Professor all the research done on Clarke statements.Great Aussie article this morning,implying that Clarke was less than accurate about some statements about Indonesia in his book.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:12:01 AM PST
(John Kerry's been AWOL for two decades on issues of National Security!)
posted on 03/27/2004 6:12:17 AM PST
It's interestin g how easilly democrats overlook those little things.
I may just have to buy the book to fill in the gaps left by the democrats discussing it.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:13:21 AM PST
(Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live...at least a while)
Could this guy have his Bill Clinton knee pads any more firmly in place?
posted on 03/27/2004 6:13:40 AM PST
Oh of course! The current Administration must take the blame for an 8 month "lack of vision" but not a word about 8 years of bluster and inaction from the Clinton Administration. Again, SO WHAT? Compare the POST 9-11 actions of the Bush Administration with the 8 years of bluster and inaction by the Clintonites. The same Clinton Administration that John Kerry is currently praising as the model HE would use for a War on Terror. Endless meetings and tough talk but NO actions is the Kerry plan for fighting Terorrism. All the rest of this 9-11 Comission blather is just the usual Democratic Establishment smokescreen to hide the fact that their canidate is completely unfit for the job of President.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:16:13 AM PST
(If you have to pretend to be something you are not, you have all ready lost the debate)
Wrong! Our most serious threat in the long term is China. China and Russia have the ability to destroy us as a nation. AQ does not.
No, the fault for 9/11 lays completely in the Clinton administrations lack of response to the terrorist threat that emerged in the 1990s. They never responded effectively to the numerous AQ attacks on us. It made no difference who was elected in 2000. The die was already set.
I'm also ticked by the Clintonoids claiming credit for stopping the Millenium bombing. It was an alert border guard in WA that stopped it, not Clinton.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:17:22 AM PST
Before 9/11 the atmosphere of Political Correctness and Multiculturalism made it near impossible to call suspicion on Arab flight students and muslims preaching radical islam. Anybody complaining about them would be sent to sensitivity training camp. Not a lot has changed.
I can guarantee that had President Bush "known" that the WTC/Pentagon attack was to be carried out on 9/11 and he grounded all aviation that day he would have been tarred and feathered and run out of town by sundown. By grounding aviation the scum would have simply stayed home and nothing would have happened. Nothing. And ABCNBCCBSCNN...would have been screaming what a power-mad extremist paranoic dictator the President was and how he didn't have the authority blah blah blah. The terrorists would have simply waited until flights resumed to carry out their attack, probably waiting until the impeachment of Bush for abuse of power had removed him from office. And then President Cheney would be blamed when the attacks finally took place, thereby turning us into Andalusia (formerly Spain, for those of you on the left), followed by an irreversible plunge into socialism followed by terror unfettered (since the dems would dismantle our military in a globalist appeasement strategy).
Gosh, we mention Reagan and Bush but not one mention of Clinton's failures.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:21:51 AM PST
The whole argument seems so absurd to me.
If on September 10th, we had arrested 19 Arab men who the FBI said were planning to hijack planes and fly them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, what would the left have said?
If we had unilaterally invaded Afghanistan and taken out the Taleban based on the fact that they were supporting AQ, what would the left have said?
It's like saying, "What if on Dec. 6th, 1941, we had dropped a bomb on Hiroshima in order to prevent Pearl Harbor?"
September 11th happened, it changed the course of American history, just like Pearl Harbor, just like the sinking of the Lusitania.
At this point, blame is only political rhetoric, and IMHO, not even worth discussing.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:22:10 AM PST
Wow!! The New York Times is chosing Clarke's most negative assessment of the Bush administration.
Surprise, surprise!! [/sarcasm]
posted on 03/27/2004 6:23:01 AM PST
(2001: The Daschle-Schumer Gang obstructed Bush's attempts to organize his administration -->9/11)
Ms. Rice, spelling out the foreign policy priorities of a Bush White House, argued that after years of drift under the Clinton administration, United States foreign policy had to concentrate on the "real challenges" to American security.
I'm not certain whether the author is merely confused, or whether he wrote this deeply-flawed article with malicious intent. His main premise seems to be that Republican administrations, most notably the Reagan administration and the current Bush administration, have had ideological blinders on, and due to their outdated belief that only state-sponsored terrorism can muster a real threat to national security, they missed the threat from Al Quaeda.
The author has done a sloppy job, and has not come close to proving his case. For just one example, when he quotes an article by Dr. Rice to support his thesis, he's making an obvious error. The article in question is focused on "foreign policy". By definition, foreign policy deals with the relations between states. It does not deal with relations between states and NGOs, or between states and organized crime syndicates, or between states and large multinational corporations, or, more tellingly, between states and terrorist groups. So, relying on that article to explain the Bush administration's policy and actions for fighting terrorist groups is simply silly at best (or, possibly a malicious red herring).
posted on 03/27/2004 6:23:35 AM PST
so would anyone have believed W if he'd announced to the nation that alqaida had plans to fly into the towers and then gone ahead to attack them in afghanistan, iraq or anywhere? up until 911 few people had heard of alqaida or would have doubted their ability to do that much evil... the left would have screamed for his head even moreso than now ... as usual with a dangerous intersection that people say needs a stoplight, nothing is done until someone is killed...(yes, i know about khobartowers and wtc1 and the cole and the embassybombings and the and the and the... but we know that xxxlinton was just a coward)
posted on 03/27/2004 6:24:29 AM PST
(I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.)
the other thing to remember is that during the pre-911 period of the Bush presidency, we were busy trying to get the Israel-PLO conflict resolved after the failed Clinton "feel-good" approach. We were not in a national mood to start bombing Arabs to make us safer.
We were still hoping to find the nuanced diplomatic solution. (of the type that will be favored by the French-looking JF Kerry if elected)
These people respond to force not finesse.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:26:39 AM PST
(Bring on Hillary, the Electorate is Ready For Her...)
"The idea that the sinister hand of the Kremlin was behind groups like the Italian Red Brigades and even the Irish Republican Army revealed the deep sense of paranoia within political circles at the time."
I can't speak about the Red Brigades, but I know for a fact that the IRA was (and no doubt is) a communist organization. Whether the Soviets helped them or not, I do not know, but they were commies, plain and simple.
This author obviously thinks that Communism and its quest for world domination was some kind of a ha-ha joke. He no doubt thinks that about the Islamofacists too, and he would no doubt have thought it about silly old Hitler and Co.
Well laugh in the face of the millions of dead if you will, because you'll be crying when the forces of evil come for you, Mr. Neuman.
posted on 03/27/2004 6:26:55 AM PST
(The dems don't get it, the American people do.)
To: 2sheep; Jeremiah Jr; BearWash
Why Nobody Saw 9/11 Coming
The SOL saw it coming:
23 August 2001
>>>A red flag is a well known warning sign or danger signal. What a picture to see the SOL holding a red flag up. What a picture to see the Statue of Liberty with the same initials (SOL) as a common expletive beginning with the letters S.O.L. meaning S___ Out of Luck.
Volition: The exercise of the will: Prospective volition: Danger signal
danger signal (noun)
danger signal, note of warning, WARNING
murmur, muttering, DISCONTENT
writing on the wall, portent, evil omen, OMEN
gathering clouds, thundercloud
storm warning, gale warning, small craft warning, hurricane warning
tornado warning or alert
warning sound, alarum, alarm clock, alarm bell, burglar alarm, security alarm, car alarm, fire alarm, fire bell, foghorn, fog signal, bell buoy, car horn, klaxon, buzzer, bicycle bell, police whistle
blast, honk, toot, LOUDNESS
alarm, church bell, curfew, tocsin, siren, alert, red alert
tattoo, beat of the drum, trumpet-call, CALL
war cry, battle cry, rallying cry
death's head, skull and crossbones
warning light, red light, yellow light, Very lights, lighthouse, beacon
quarantine flag, storm flag, red flag, yellow flag
distress signal, SOS, Mayday, SIGNAL
sign of alarm, start, tremor, blench, sweat, hair on end, FEAR<<<
["In the end, the 9/11 hearings are likely to find.....
...Something that most everyone knows about human nature. That is, people "react", instead of "act" (ahead of time).
It takes events like: 9-11, Pearl Harbor, The Boston Massacre, and so on...to occur (FIRST) and then changes are made in the way people think and behave. Unfortunately, innocent lives are lost in the process.
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