The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

On the Run

Just when I though the Obama administration couldn't possibly make another egregious foreign policy error, the State Department issued a set of terrorist warnings that seem just vaguely off-key. Based on "chatter" gathered by our intelligence services, they tell us, we have issued broad based intelligence warning and shuttered 21 US embassies throughout the Middle East for varying amounts of time. All of this, "in an abundance of caution." US citizens have been told to limit travel into the Arab crescent and leave Yemen altogether, and politicians are warning us that al Qaida is on the march.

Wasn't it just 11 months ago, during the presidential campaign, that Barack Obama crowed that Osama bin Laden was dead and al Qaida was "on the run." Looks to me as if our state department staff at US embassies are the folks who are on the run.

It may be that a true attack is in the offing, but let's think about this logically. Senior al Qaida leaders are well versed in the intelligence gathering capabilities of the CIA, the DIA, the NSA, and the alphabet soup of other Sigint gatherers. Would they really be so stupid that they provide "specific" threat level intelligence that telegraphs their evil intent. Maybe. But I doubt it. And think about this: al Qaida achieved their goal without murdering a single innocent or loosing a single martyr to the 72 virgins. Just Chatter away and the United States cowers in the dark, hoping that their embassies will be safe if they're closed, but forgetting that many other US interests abound throughout the Middle East, and all of them are soft targets.

Seems to me that the Obama administration is more concerned with CYA than it is with the international image of the USA. Angelo Codevilla comments:
The shutdown and warnings, then, proceed from the assumption either that the terrorists “chatter” amongst themselves blissfully ignorant of what anyone who cares to look knows about NSA’s reach, or that they willfully warn us. That assumption flies in the face of experience. The terrorists who have bitten us have not chattered, while those who chatter do not bite. The terrorists who brought mortars and grenade launchers to destroy US facilities in Benghazi and kill our people did not chatter. The US government is up against serious people. Unfortunately, it gives proof of unseriousness.

The US government’s assertion that the “threats” emanating from this “chatter” were somehow “specific” belies itself because it is contrary to common sense. Any specificity would focus attention on specific people and places rather than eliciting meaningless general measures and warnings. That attention’s effectiveness would depend on secret preparations for counter strokes, not on public displays of fear.

This leads reasonable persons to conclude that some enemies of the United States, well knowing that NSA is listening, decided to give it an earful, with a few names and places thrown in by way of example, but not enough to remove the impression they sought to give of general mayhem. And so they ‘chattered.” They had sound reason to believe that US intelligence executives would trigger equally incompetent policy makers, fearful of being blamed for an attack on their watch preceded by such “chatter.”
This administration and the foreign policy decisions it makes are often characterized by "unseriousness." Even if an attack does occur, there are other ways this threat could have been handled, and none of them would make it look like the United States is the entity that is on the run.

Update (8/7/2013):

Looks like I'm not the only one who confused and concerned about this latest terrorist warning. This from McClatchy:
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

Read more here: