HomeFeaturesDailyBriefingsRapidReconSpecial ReportsAbout Us

Strategy or Magic Numbers And Stump Politics?

It’s a fair question. Let me explain, and you be the judge.

In urging caution in pronouncing the death of al-Masri at The Tank on National Review Online, I repeated the observation made in yesterday’s DailyBriefing regarding the Pakistani reaction to the missile strike. I did so with some added commentary within the context of frustration shared by many at our limited ability to get at al-Qaeda senior leadership (AQSL).

And, while I really do not mean to self-promote, I am confident that the following observation, also made earlier today, points out an astute pattern to acknowledge, particularly when feeling frustrated about our inability to decisively shape events on the ground as much as we’d like within al-Qaeda’s “home base.”
Initial reactions [to the missile strike, regardless of al-Masri’s specific death or not] are the standard lot; Pakistani warnings against US attacks inside Pakistan, US assurances that it respects Pak sovereignty, and dead al-Qaeda terrorists inside Pakistani territory.

One day, overtly or covertly, we will have a decisive presence within al-Qaeda’s Pakistani mountain lairs. Until then, frustrating as it may be, we are doing as well as can be expected.

Unless, of course, someone is advocating a ground invasion of Pakistani territory — in which case one is then responsible for shaping discussion about the effects of flipping a reluctant ally into a combative adversary state and the task of fighting al-Qaeda and a largely American-trained and -armed professional military with nuclear capability. That’s about the time it gets really quiet. Not sure anyone’s quite up to that task yet, and we are thus left with spirited complaints about current policy and chirping crickets when it comes to tabling anything substantively different.

Though I didn’t take the time to say so directly, the concluding graph above was made with presidential candidate Senator Obama’s two plans squarely in mind.

On the one hand, he begrudgingly acknowledges the reduction of violence in Iraq and appears loathe to credit the US military and its implemented change in strategy (population protection vice principally force protection) and says he would still not support the surge knowing what he knows now. What he “knows now” is a rather curious topic of debate, as the senator is less than clear in his expression.

On the other hand, at the same time the would-be Commander in Chief is proffering a ‘surge’ in Afghanistan to the tune of 10,000 troops. Yet, unlike the Iraq surge he opposed (and still opposes), where increased numbers were based on a mission transition in 2007 and requirements to fulfill that mission, Senator Obama’s surge plan for Afghanistan appears on its face to have little concrete vision or alteration beyond sending in more troops. What’s more (and perhaps telling) is that there is little in the way of detailing how that specific number of additional troops was arrived at. The roundness of the number - and lack of accompanying explanation - suggests it may be just that, a number. This, if so, is not a plan.

In brief, as much as the current strategy in Afghanistan is hotly criticized, the Obama campaign has still failed to articulate anything substantively different than the current strategy being criticized.

Perhaps his military advisors may want to sharpen their pencils and share a thought or two. Perhaps we simply missed them amid the frequent criticism. Or perhaps the senator may reverse course and return to his once-stated predisposition to send US troops into Pakistan.

Otherwise, it all rings as hollow criticism without serious alternative. That’s not a plan. And it’s not a strategy. That’s simply stump politics.

Wrong arena, sir.