Is it wag the dog?
…the indefinite shutdown of 20 U.S. embassies in the Mideast and Africa after the announcement of a for-sure, impending terrorist mega-attack looks suspiciously gift-wrapped and well-timed.
For one thing, if we’re on the eve of a possible “9/11 junior,” what on earth is the president of the U.S. doing going on the Tonight Show for the umpteenth time?
Why is funny man Jay Leno the one who gets to ask Obama about al-Qaida, but he’s too busy for queries without punch lines from the Washington press corps?
The paradox is dizzying: The new “on its heels” al-Qaida, whose charismatic leader “Osama bin Laden is no more,” as Obama boasted during last year’s campaign, may no longer be as centralized, and CIA director John O. Brennan may claim al-Qaida has its eyes on regional preoccupations rather than on attacking us.
Yet this supposedly weakened “network of local-actor organizations,” as German Marshall Fund analyst Hassan Mneimneh described it to USA Today, has managed to shut down U.S. diplomatic facilities indefinitely in a strategically vital region stretching 6,700 miles by 1,700 miles, as the State Department frightens thousands of Americans out of traveling.
And apparently all because current al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri told a flunky in Yemen to “Do something!”
Who is really “on its heels” or “on the run,” to use the president’s campaign rhetoric last year — the terrorists or the U.S.?
When you shut down that many embassies, the terrorists win.
[Update a few minutes later]
The problem is that the administration refuses to admit we’re at war, instead insanely thinking that wars can be “ended” (the thought of actually winning one, against foreign, as opposed to domestic enemies, in anathema to them) by unilaterally declaring it over. And such a delusional attitude manifests itself like this:
Don’t look to Obama for leadership, especially in the area where his constitutional responsibilities are highest — protecting the nation’s security. In fact, Bagram is a problem of his own creation. Obama cannot reach an agreement with the Afghans to continue operating the base. No doubt Afghan president Hamid Karzai is none too happy about being abandoned in the middle of a fight. The administration cannot send the enemy prisoners to their home countries, such as Yemen or Pakistan, because these countries cannot be trusted to hold them. Obama will not move the prisoners to Guantanamo Bay because he has ordered that no prisoners be added there (which has reduced U.S. captures of al-Qaeda leaders to almost zero and cut off our most valuable source of intelligence on the enemy). He cannot bring them to the U.S. because of congressional opposition to his earlier attempt to move the Gitmo prisoners to the continental U.S.
[Update a couple minutes later]
This terror alert is “crazy pants“:
If ordinary Americans are confused, they’re in good company. Analysts who’ve devoted their careers to studying al Qaida and U.S. counterterrorism strategy can’t really make sense of it, either. There’s general agreement that the diffuse list of potential targets has to do with either specific connections authorities are tracking, or places that might lack the defenses to ward off an attack. Beyond that, however, even the experts are stumped.
Take this sampling of reactions from prominent al Qaida observers:
“It’s crazy pants – you can quote me,” said Will McCants, a former State Department adviser on counterterrorism who this month joins the Brookings Saban Center as the director of its project on U.S. relations with the Islamic world.
“We just showed our hand, so now they’re obviously going to change their position on when and where” to attack, said Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst who was part of the team that hunted Osama bin Laden for years.
“It’s not completely random, but most people are, like, ‘Whaaat?’” said Aaron Zelin, who researches militants for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and blogs about them at Jihadology.net
“I’m not going to argue that it’s not willy-nilly, but it’s hard for me to come down too critical because I simply don’t know their reasoning,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington research institute.
I think he’s being generous in assuming that there is actual reasoning going on.