January 4, 2010

Obama's Typical Reaction to Terrorism

Maybe he really was fired. David Kilcullen, who joined the US State Department in 2005 and has advised both George Bush and President Obama on counterinsurgency, probably didn’t improve his standing when he criticized the delay over Afghanistan.

“We can either put in enough troops to control the environment or we can credibly communicate our intention to leave,” Kilcullen told the Guardian in November. “Either could work. Splitting the difference is not the way to go... The middle ground is a good place on domestic issues, but not on strategy. You either commit to D-Day and invade the continent or you get Suez. Half-measures end up with Suez. Do it or not do it."

One half-measure later and Kilcullen is undoubtedly wondering why Obama has committed to all out counterterrorism.

Citizens of 14 nations who are flying to the United States, “will be subjected indefinitely to the intense screening at airports worldwide that was imposed after the Christmas Day bombing plot,” the New York Times reported Sunday night. 
Those countries include Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen.

Passengers holding passports from those nations, “will be required to undergo full-body pat downs and will face extra scrutiny of their carry-on bags before they can board planes to the United States. In some countries that have more advanced screening equipment, travelers will also be required to pass through so-called whole-body scanners...”

It’s like America wants to make new enemies.

These measures aren’t racial profiling but assumed terrorism, the idea that any person from these countries constitutes a threat. One must assume US intelligence has reports of an imminent attack, for only such a certainty could justify this extreme security doctrine. But merely the threat causing these measures fits into Dick Cheney’s 1% doctrine that demands 100% response.

This is al-Qaeda’s strategy to the atom - and Obama fell hard for it. Kilcullen writes in his book The Accidental Guerrilla,
“The threat is that a zero-risk approach to terrorism, one that seeks to drive the chances of another 911 attack down to zero, might cause Western countries to take well-intentioned precautionary or reactive measures that would be so divisive internationally, and so repressive domestically, that we would end up destroying our way of life in order to save it, compromising freedoms and values to guard against a relatively remote risk, undermining the function of the very international system the terrorists are trying to attack, and destroying our international credibility and moral authority in the process.”
For instance, any citizen of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia will for the first time be patted down automatically before boarding any flight to the United States. The potential for moral and religious offense is explosive, especially when considering women. Obama’s hard line measures risk repulsing the Muslim world, damage his moral credibility, and weaken economics linked to international travel. Kilcullen writes,
“This is, indeed, a typical consequence of terrorism and open that terrorists and insurgents count on in planning their attacks: what hurts the targeted state (as distinct from the victims of the actual attack themselves) is not the direct effect of the terrorist attack itself, but the ‘auto-immune response’... a response that alienates allies within and without the targeted society, and inflicts far greater loss, cost, and damage (physical, political, economic) that the terrorists could ever directly impose.. “This was exactly the effect of the 9/11 attacks.”
And Mr. Abdulmutallab’s attack didn’t even go off as planned. Obama’s response has been pure militarism and an absolutist security crackdown - an invasion could have been justified had Abdulmutallab's underwear exploded. In his weekly address, Obama milks al-Qaeda's link to Yemen and Nigeria for a seventh straight day while leaving out any mention of the Yemeni or Nigerian people.

According to John Brennan, deputy National Security Adviser for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, America's cooperation with Yemen is currently "on the security, intelligence and military fronts."

Basically a short military rant on al-Qaeda’s menace, Obama contradicts himself by concluding, “Instead of giving in to fear and cynicism, let's renew that timeless American spirit of resolve and confidence and optimism. Instead of succumbing to partisanship and division, let's summon the unity that this moment demands. Let's work together, with a seriousness of purpose, to do what must be done to keep our country safe.”

Obama’s words and deeds remain far apart though, a growing trend. The governments in question might submit to his airline security, hardly "working together," but the people are another matter entirely, not to mention Obama's real concern. Their perception of him will dictate how effectively he can work with Islamabad, Beirut, and Mogadishu.

Kilcullen suggests Obama’s reaction to Bush’s “War on Terror” is more of the same in a section titled: The Inadequacy of Counterterrorism as a Strategy:
“All of this suggests that, contrary to President Bush’s June National Security Strategy of 2002 (NSS 2002), which asserted a right to unilateral, preemptive direct action against ‘terrorism and tyrants” anywhere in the world, anytime, as part of our “uncertain duration,’ countering transnational terrorism cannot be the organizing principle for US national security policy.

The zero-risk, 1% strategy, effectively translates into asserting a right to make war, on suspicion, “on anyone anywhere, forever. Against an enemy whose strategy relies on provoking us into an exhausting series of overcommitments, in an environment where trust in our good intentions is essential for smooth functioning of the world system, and where other countries regard with unease the already overwhelming military superiority of the West, such a maximalist approach is precisely the most harmful strategy we could possibly adopt.”
Looks like Kilcullen didn’t get the call. Obama would have spent more time repairing political relations with Pakistan if so, while touching on Palestine and Kashmir, sending his condolences to the relatives of dead Afghan civilians, and overall de-emphasizing military dominance. But full-spectrum counterinsurgency, like Kilcullen advises, is nowhere to be found.

President Obama's reaction is “a typical consequence of terrorism,” not a change from the Bush era. Prepare for more war ‘on anyone anywhere.”


  1. They need to be justified, before they can act further. Preemptive strikes, invasion, occupation, will be the mode for a long time. Obama and the [realist international Neolibs], will make the Neocons look like amateurs.

  2. Irving Kristol, considered the Godfather of Neoconservatism, once said a neoconservative is a "liberal mugged by reality." Obama's security and foreign policy failures are based more on a lack of effort and innovation than failure of his liberal policies, but Kristol's words deserve contemplation. Obama's unilateral militarism has vastly overshadowed his supposed belief in international institutions, and the "us vs. them" mentality is already being propagated. Typical, as in boring, unoriginal, standard, common.

    And it's a verifiable fact that Obama's current response to al-Qaeda is the 1% doctrine crafted single-handily by Dick Cheney. Honestly this shouldn't come as a surprise because Obama has no military understanding whatsoever - conventional or asymmetrical.

  3. I do not know about you, but i see a lot of Hillary in this. I have always thought that she would have her own covert State Dept. within the State Dept.

    The regime brings the President. The President does not bring the regime.

    He was handed the baton, and now he is running with it. He was the [CHOSEN] one for their domino principal.
    During the cold war. We were afraid of the [communist domino principal]. Now we are playing a new Grand Game. ZBIG and his boyz never sleep.

  4. As an Obama voter your website terrifies me. I wish I could argue any of what you guys say, but I can't.

  5. JG; There was no deal. He was groomed. I might be reading too much into this but i doubt it.

    HERE IT IS------------------------PAGE 2

    One person who did remember Mr. Obama was Michael L. Baron, who taught a senior seminar on international politics and American policy. Mr. Baron, now president of an electronics company in Florida, said he was Mr. Obama’s adviser on the senior thesis for that course. Mr. Baron, who later wrote Mr. Obama a recommendation for Harvard Law School, gave him an A in the course.

    Columbia was a hotbed for discussion of foreign policy, Mr. Baron said. The faculty included Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser, and Zalmay Khalilzad, now the American ambassador to the United Nations. Half of the eight students in the seminar were outstanding, and Mr. Obama was among them, Mr. Baron said.

  6. We know all to well the names you're listing. We just want to be careful about being eaten in the deep, if you catch our drift.

    Anonymous - we don't mean to terrify but do be warned, the truth is scary.