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Thread: Before Abbottabad: hunting AQ leaders (merged thread)

  1. #21
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Yeah, slap, I remember that show. Interesting stuff....

    But what gets me with LEO-type stuff is that the media jumps on it and acts like you should be replaying "Dragnet," complete with reading the rights and all that. It's the outside spin that comes with it that tends to drive me nuts.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  2. #22
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Steve, if we could pull it off there is real I/O merit in that SOB in handcuffs and have his rights read to him before we give him a fair trial and hang him But to go to the straight military side we had a manual and a concept called MOOTW military Operations Other Than "War" which is exactly what need to call it, but we dumped that for some reason??

  3. #23
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    I agree with slapout on the disadvantages of declaring "war" on everything.

    I think Americans aren't as tolerant or patient as in the past. There is also a tendency to equate lack of immediate result with lack of legitmacy. By putting OBL front and center we set ourselves up for discouragement that it is taking so long along with doubts whether the effort against the irhabists should be made at all.

    Additionally when he does go down, some will think it is all over and be further discouraged when it is not.

    The irhabists stand to win when he does go down. They have their martyr who defied the mighty US and did it for a long time.

  4. #24
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Yeah, the whole name game is enough to drive someone nuts. MOOTW was interesting, but so is small wars.... Perhaps Leveraged Actions with Synergistic Termination (LAST) or Controlled Utilization of National Termination Systems (you can do the acronym for that one, lest I be banned to the Club) might make some wordsmiths happy....

    But with LE you get into that whole legal loophole question, and that tends to make me nervous. I agree with the SOB in handcuffs image, but in this day and age it also conjures up images of certain gloves that didn't fit. But what the hell, right? We all have our little word preferences.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  5. #25
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Additionally when he does go down, some will think it is all over and be further discouraged when it is not.

    The irhabists stand to win when he does go down. They have their martyr who defied the mighty US and did it for a long time.
    I guess this speaks to the necessity to have a message ready now, loaded and cocked. I'd personally like to see him de-mystified and put down as a low-lying cretin. There needs to be a full-court press that he died on the run, cowering like a frightened child, and not some bold entity.

    I'm surprised that most of those who praise Che and wear his t-shirt don't realize that he died dirty, starved, and certainly not some valiant warrior.
    Last edited by jcustis; 05-16-2007 at 08:41 PM.

  6. #26
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    The legal loopholes would not be as big a problem as we think if it was done right. Just like with Noriaga in Panama was taken under special warrants and tried in a non public way. We could do the same for OBL and everyone in AQI don't just stop with him.

  7. #27
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    The legal loopholes would not be as big a problem as we think if it was done right. Just like with Noriaga in Panama was taken under special warrants and tried in a non public way. We could do the same for OBL and everyone in AQI don't just stop with him.
    Your last sentence says it all. We may have killed of the head of AQI a while back but we have a new face and name as head of AQI to be the bad guy now, don't we? [Cynicism] Even if we get OBL, we still will find another name and face popping up to haunt us--if for no other reason than so that the media can continue to gartner their profits.[/Cynicism]

  8. #28
    Council Member LawVol's Avatar
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    Slapout's Law Enforcement Operation is intriguing. I definitely see a potential down-side with the whole legality thing (I am a lawyer after all), but perhaps there are some benefits too. We get to label him as something Americans easily understand. There are no PC-type arguments about why his acts were committed and it denies him his perceived legitimacy. After all, if America has declared war on OBL then he must be important, legitimate, etc. However, a criminal is something that carries a negative perception throughout the world. In this sense it would be helpful to indict him not only for American deaths on 9/11 but also for Arab deaths.

    I'm still thinking this part through, but I also see a benefit on the home front. Fighting global criminals would not seem to require a huge military presence. We, of course, would use military force to effectuate an "arrest," but that military force would be of limited duration since the mission objective is to make the arrest or kill.

    Immediate questions that come to mind involve the type of seizure law (think 4th amendment) that would apply since even killing is a seizure; sovereignty issues; if captured, who would try OBL and others like him and how;etc.

  9. #29
    Council Member pvebber's Avatar
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    My take on this is that asking if a specific decision "went wrong" or not can't really be answered. There are too many audiences and interpretations of the decision to be able to definitively say one way or the other. It may have been "terribly wrong" to the perception of some audiences, but a benefit to others. What is the result "on balance" - the answer is not as important as the way you try to take account - and the implications on future decisions.

    What did we try to accomplish with the decision? My recollection is that it likely had more to do with the audience here at home - rather than overseas -and the pervasive notion that we "need to hold someone to account" when bad outcomes occur.

    That naming him likely had a beneficial effect on early morale and confidence here in the US, compared to a situation where a "shadowy unnamed group" was behind it is arguably true. Specifying AQ as the agency behind 9/11, de facto implicated bin Laden - distancing that name from responsibility would have been difficult and opened assorted Pandora's boxes. Would it have been possible to go after AQ without bin Laden figuring highly? My sense is probably not...would the media have hyped him anyway, with equivocating on the part of officialdom on his role feeding conspiracy theorists in the press?

    If we had gotten him that would have been a handsome payday in 'political capital'. Not getting him eroded that inititial benefit, but its not clear that turned to a net negative, or just back to zero. OR set the stage for a later shift to net negative when other bad outcomes occured...

    But that is here at home.

    On the other hand, overseas audiences, particularly in the Islamic world, the focus on AQ and bin Laden was undenyably an early victory for our adversaries. Demonstrating that they could poke the great Satan in the eye, AND provocing such responses BY NAME was much more than 15 minutes of fame and the equivalent of Billions in ad money. Could that victory have been moderated with a strategic comms effor that payed more attention to the differences between messages aimed at home and messages to be reinforced overseas? Undoubtedly. It is not clear from any of the books I've read so far that the finer details of the needed strat comms effort was even appreciated, let alone planned out that early on. Its not clear that the lesson there has been learned.

    Other audiences are not so clear, I think Europe was far more influenced by the "with us or against us" rhetoric, than anything to do with pronouncements on bin Laden. The media itself - simultaneousy an audience and a cacaphony of messeges itself would be a wild card in any strategy to down play AQ and bin Laden - the potential for a media blowback that awarded AQ a victory anyway, and was a net loss on the home front was not outside the realm of possibility.

    So in some ways there is the "was it really a choice" - once AQ was identified, bid focus on bin Laden follow as fair accompli? I may ascribe too much to the media, but that is at least possible. If it was not a choice, but a matter of priority given his name was going to come up, what were the pros and cons of going 'all in'? How do you evaluate the various unitened consequences of "paying too much attention" vs "not paying enough attention" or the dreaded "looking you are deliberately being evasive on the topic" opening the door to who knows what?

    Bottom line, the answer may not be as interesting as the train of logic and new questions trying to answer it leads you down. Even if we can definitively answer for this case, does that mean following the same course next time will be right? Maybe, maybe not. We tend to be too peoccupied with predicting results of decisions and their goodness, (a result that often occurs for reasons totally unrelated to the decision itself) rather than on the decision-making framework that allows examination of the ramifications of various interactions in the decision space.

    Work the various outcomes of "if I do this and then this happens and other people do these other things..." Gee that is starting to sound like something that one needs to do with games and game theory-like stuff Being a proponent of "truely complex problems require game-like exploration" guy I often end up there
    "All models are wrong, but some are useful"

    -George E.P. Box

  10. #30
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Manhunting:Finding Persons of National Interest

    LawVol the US Marshal's can and do serve international warrants, 4th Amendment would not be a problem due to the demonstrated danger to society at large (fleeing felon law). Also one of the authors was a...gulp..Air Force Officer...there is hope after all, and to top it off it is a Navy published paper.



    Here is a link to a paper on how I think it should have been done. This is basic police work. In this case the main consultants were the US Marshal Service,British Security Service and plain old detectives.
    http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/...arks_jun05.pdf

    PS Goesh and Stan some good huntin stuff in here for real

  11. #31
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    LawVol the US Marshal's can and do serve international warrants, 4th Amendment would not be a problem due to the demonstrated danger to society at large (fleeing felon law). Also one of the authors was a...gulp..Air Force Officer...there is hope after all, and to top it off it is a Navy published paper.



    Here is a link to a paper on how I think it should have been done. This is basic police work. In this case the main consultants were the US Marshal Service,British Security Service and plain old detectives.
    http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/...arks_jun05.pdf

    PS Goesh and Stan some good huntin stuff in here for real
    Evening Slapout !
    Coincident with our night off from evening duties (it’s Wednesday aye), we gathered for a few brews and much needed humor with EOD Techs and friends from specialized LE units (pictured below).

    As politics reared its ugly head, I related Slapout’s comments and a senior LE opined: “You Yanks have made the whole affair far too personal. We don’t name our criminals. What did that get you?” Deep pause…”I would encourage the military to kill people and break things, because that is what they are there for. Do I need to send my team there and collect the 1 million ?”

    I like the hunting gear, Slapout !
    Last edited by Stan; 09-11-2007 at 10:51 AM.

  12. #32
    Council Member LawVol's Avatar
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    Slapout: thanks for the great paper. There is some very interesting stuff in there. I can't help but wonder if OBL would be dead or behind bars if we'd used this approach. Perhaps he wouldn't have the same following either.

    I'm intrigued by the LE approach to fighting the war on terror.

  13. #33
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    LawVol your welcome. except for some of the more hi-tech stuff I have used every technique in there. All boils down to my original 3F sometimes 4F technique. It is not complex it is just hard work, labor intensive as the accountants say. Oh yea want to find OBL no problem, he has a whole bunch of kin folk and a construction company in Saudia Arabia. Who IMHO are in this whole GWOT think up to their eyeballs. Me Goesh and Stan and Jedburgh and Tom and RTK and Rob Thornton and Marct could find him. Might need some Air Support from you... Doing anything the next couple of years?? Gotta go.

  14. #34
    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    I wanted to poll the SWC for input on a thought I've had for a while, and it centers on our vilification of Al Qaeda and, in particular, one Osama Bin Laden.

    I think we ought to have turned his world upside down and defied him to come to America on a speaking tour to sell his position in the free market place of ideas. Offer him complete security. And keep making the offer, and keep making him decline.

    Ok, this is a bit wacky, but the point I'm driving at is that, to a degree, the ideas the AQ et al are selling aren't all that great. They really haven't made anything much better for the people they purport to serve, support, or represent. Who thinks that the Taliban did a good job with Afghanistan? Who thinks that the work that they did in Pakistan has really improved the lives of anyone who has attended one of their Madrassas? And their big idea is to replicate this model across the world? I don't really know that many people really _want_ this. However, what they like is that he stands up to America. What the young men who join the movement like is that he gives their lives some bit of purpose, something to do. But if he were forced to really sell his ideas, the flaws in the grand design would be made breathtakingly apparent.

    He's a great strategist, but he really has a terrible idea. If he were made to have to rely on the idea rather than the strategy his stock would fall.

    As much as 9/11 and the loss of the WTC pained me personally, I think we conflated a great tragedy with a great threat.

  15. #35
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    That may turn off the American listening public, but I really don't think that idea would hinder his ability to recruit in the least. What he's appealing to is emotional, not rational, and if he's a good speaker the idea could easily backfire.

    There are a number of historical examples to back this up, but I'd like to look quickly at just two. The first are the European terrorist groups of the 1970s and 1980s (some of which still exist today). How many Germans really believed that the Red Army Faction wanted to "free" the workers? Or how many Italians thought the Italian Red Brigades had the same goal? Not that many in real terms. But they both could tap into just enough resentment, idealism, and urges to destroy the "system" that they managed to keep a flow of recruits coming. The second example is Hitler. I'm not saying Bin Laden is "evil" in the same sense, but many in Germany (and the rest of the world) figured that his message was too nonsensical to be believed. It was, but he was also a hell of a speaker and audience manipulator. By the time some folks figured that out, it was too late.

    Messages can be tailored. Hitler understood this, as did Stalin, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, and other revolutionary leaders. They also understand that just because we (and I use the term in a very generic sense) think their message is absurd doesn't mean that others will feel the same way. And if they can win over a few of the others they come out ahead.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  16. #36
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Steve, your right OBL gets his talking points form God we get ours from....well wherever we would get them from, which is exactly my point attempting to engage this guy in anyway that gives him a public platform is playing his game....buy his rules.....and you can only loose.

    Sargent, I agree with you that he gained a great deal of respect for standing up to the US. Which is exactly why we should not call it a war! We turned a mass murderer into a great General who is leading his rag-tag rebel army in total defiance of the only superpower on earth. Again he can only win from this position and we can only loose. This is exactly how small criminals become big guys. Just go pick a fight with the biggest guy on the block! It doesn't matter if you win or loose in rational terms, the fact that you are willing to fight gives you a great deal of status and sets you up to draw support from the enemy. It gets people thinking maybe I should switch sides because this guy is just crazy enough to pull it off, so lets go jump on the winning team so to speak.


    Law Enforcement is a process not a war. It that sense you never need to win you only have to enforce the law as long as that law exists-hence no time limit. By taking away the status of war from OBL you automatically deny him victory from the start, he can not win the war because there isn"t one. President Bush had the right idea from the very start he should be Wanted Dead or Alive as a criminal mass murderer.

  17. #37
    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    That may turn off the American listening public, but I really don't think that idea would hinder his ability to recruit in the least. What he's appealing to is emotional, not rational, and if he's a good speaker the idea could easily backfire.

    The concept is mostly meant to be illustrative of what sorts of things need to be done to take his movement down a peg. I grant that his appeal to the young men is not something that we're likely ever going to be able to touch -- and probably don't need to directly -- although you can reduce the size of the pool of the potentially willing. Nevertheless, the willing to be recruiteds are not the primary targets in this case -- it's the vast populations who sit on the fence or just to his side of the fence. Head to head, most people in the world pick the American/Western idea (in part, if not in whole), hands down -- even though it is far from perfect itself. If Afghanistan had had free immigration, who would have moved there to live under that regime? I think if you couple that idea with a dose of humility and empathy in American policy, the Bin Ladens and AQs of the world don't really stand a chance.
    Last edited by marct; 05-20-2007 at 03:39 PM. Reason: fixed quote

  18. #38
    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Another issue with this would be that when you grant someone a speaking tour in the US you're more or less saying that you believe their cause is legitimate. Any sort of sponsorship can be constituted as an endorsement. It might also allow him to reach into areas that might otherwise be difficult for him, and if the guy's a good speaker....well...we've seen historically where that leads.

    Interesting discussion, though.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

  19. #39
    Council Member Sargent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Another issue with this would be that when you grant someone a speaking tour in the US you're more or less saying that you believe their cause is legitimate. Any sort of sponsorship can be constituted as an endorsement. It might also allow him to reach into areas that might otherwise be difficult for him, and if the guy's a good speaker....well...we've seen historically where that leads.

    Interesting discussion, though.
    We allow all manner of reprehensible sorts to speak and demonstrate freely in this country. It doesn't mean that anyone necessarily grants them legitimacy, it just means that even the idiots are allowed to sell their ideas here. It's that freedom that's meant to keep the firebrands in check -- the other side will always be able to speak out in opposition. I recall that the Fascists were making some pretty good inroads prior to our involvement in WWII -- but in the end, people just didn't want that.

    In the end, I don't think OBL would entice more people here than we'd gain elsewhere by standing firm on our freedoms. But that's just a gut response -- maybe it's just the idealist in me.

  20. #40
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default U.S. Aborted Raid on Qaeda Chiefs in Pakistan in í05

    8 July NY Times - U.S. Aborted Raid on Qaeda Chiefs in Pakistan in í05 by Mark Mazzetti.

    A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistanís tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.

    The target was a meeting of Qaeda leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Ladenís top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist groupís operations.

    But the mission was called off after Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, rejected an 11th-hour appeal by Porter J. Goss, then the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, officials said. Members of a Navy Seals unit in parachute gear had already boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan when the mission was canceled, said a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning...

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