I’m one of those sports fans that yells “You Idiot!!!” when the worst guy on my favorite team takes a shot from half court with 2 defenders on him and 20 seconds left on the shot clock. If he makes it, I jump for joy and high five the one other Wahoo fan. If he misses, I curse and bitch at him the entire game blaming him for the inevitable loss.
I feel much the same way about the recent killing of UBL. While I was ecstatic and quick to run to the White House to celebrate his death with thousands of others, I wonder what myself and everyone else in America would have been doing if it had turned out more like Carter’s Operation Eagle Claw. Democrats and Republicans alike would have been jumping over one another to condemn Obama’s failure, over-analyzing every single misstep. Luckily for us, we only lost one helicopter, which is likely being shared with the Chinese, and none of our soldiers, whose families are now concerned about retribution.
Let’s imagine for a minute that instead of Pakistan, UBL was living comfortably just outside of Paris. Using our assets in Germany, we could possibly launch a similar commando style raid into France. But violating a country’s sovereignty gives them the right to attack us, just like we can kill an intruder in our home in self defense. What are the repercussions of going into a country without their permission to execute a military operation? Does anyone doubt that Pakistan’s ISI is plotting something against the United States right now? Perhaps it’s another Mumbai style attack or maybe they are more willing to share nuclear technology with the desperate factions of Al Qaeda. At a minimum, they are blowing the cover of our spies and sharing our stealth technology with the Chinese.
While the CIA and ISI have a strong distrust of one another, it cannot be denied that back in March 2003, they jointly captured mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. I do believe the many claims that the ISI would leak information to targeted terrorists so they could escape before a raid. But how often did those leaks have financial consequences? Since Sept 11, 2001, the United States has given Pakistan over $18B in foreign aid. How much of that money was used to instead harbor UBL and facilitate attacks on India?
What would I have done differently? For starters, I would not have started the victory dance just hours after the raid. Instead, I would have kept UBL’s death a secret as long as possible while we scoured all the laptops and DVDs from the raid so we could pursue other terrorists without giving them a head start. But for the actual raid itself, I would have done much of the same intelligence work to locate him (which does not include torture btw) but logistically had 2 fronts on the raid. The first contingent on the ground to surround the compound and keep the Pakistanis in check. The second contingent similar to what conducted the actual raid but with more stealth helicopters to extract UBL and take him to Afghanistan. Getting ground troops into Pakistan would not be simple and could take weeks as to not raise suspicions by the ISI. I would not have informed the Pakistanis until 1 or 2 hours before the raid but I would have informed them and made it clear that ALL of their foreign aid would be in jeopardy as well as sanctions including freezing assets of top officials and declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. Of course I’m not a military strategist so I’m sure there are many improvements to be made on what I just stated.
While the crazy hook shot from Obama is one for the history books, I fear it is not the game winner, but will take us into overtime in the global war on terror. I hope I’m wrong.