Thursday, January 17, 2008

If only Bush had watched What's Happenin'

If this sort of thing had happened in 2000, it might not have cost me nearly $40 the other day to fill up the tank on my tiny Ford Focus, two towers might still be standing in New York, and the name "Greenland" might remain an oxymoron a little bit longer:


Stephen James. said...

I can agree with two out of the three, but there was evidence that Al-Queda was planning to attack the WTC long before Bush was elected. I don't think there's much a hypothetical Gore administration would have really changed to make the terrorist problem just poof and vanish.

Darrin Bell said...

"I can agree with two out of the three, but there was evidence that Al-Queda was planning to attack the WTC long before Bush was elected."

Exactly. And the Bush administration ignored that evidence. Considering the dire warnings the outgoing Clinton administration, and Richard Clark, were giving the Bushes, it's highly unlikely Gore would have ignored those warnings, and it's possible 9-11 could have been prevented. After all, the Millennium attacks were all prevented. And the bombings of the transatlantic jets were all prevented. All because the governments that received the warnings took them seriously.

"I don't think there's much a hypothetical Gore administration would have really changed to make the terrorist problem just poof and vanish."

I'm talking specifics. 9-11, specifically, was preventable.

Stephen James. said...

Good points, I did read Clarke's book back in 2004 "Against all Enemies." There were some serious warning signs that should have been noted. I'm just concerned that some of the critics are basically doing the equivilant of Monday morning quarterbacking. That in no way means that this administration isn't responsible, or that I like them using 9/11 as an excuse to go after Iraq and Iran. But I think there are plenty of people to blame here. For example the American in the 80's who gave weapons and suppourt to the Afghan fighters who are now are enemies (to fight the Soviets), the Clinton Administration for not pushing harder after the various attacks in foreign countries during the 1990's as well as the current administration. Unfortunately we might be seeing some of the same mistakes being made with this crazy new policy of sending more weapons to Saudi Arabia.

Oh well my point was that hind sight is 20/20.

Darrin Bell said...

As an aside, I don't agree with that axiom. I don't believe hindsight is 20/20. If it were, we would all have reached the same conclusions about Vietnam. It seemed that America had concluded one thing, but then this president took office and tried to teach the opposite. The conclusion used to be that we shouldn't have gotten involved and that defeat was inevitable. Bush delivered a speech months ago intimating that it was right to move into Vietnam, and if we'd just stayed and fought longer and harder, we would have won. Both can't be true. One of those hindsights needs glasses.

In any case, no matter how far back the blame goes (we could go all the way back and blame the assassin who killed the Archduke Ferdinand and started a war that led to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, if we want) the fact remains that when we've had intelligence of the sort Richard Clark says was coming in -- and when we (and the British) had leaders who paid attention to that sort of intelligence -- large scale attacks were stopped. Odds are, President Gore would have paid attention where Bush, instead, went on vacation and decided he'd rather focus us all on North Korea and Star Wars. The former means a good chance of stopping 9/11, the latter means no chance of stopping it.

Ken said...

"I don't believe hindsight is 20/20. If it were, we would all have reached the same conclusions about Vietnam."

I can see why you chose Political Science over History.

To add to the Gore defense... He might have done better because Bush and his team seemed to go out of their way to ignore any policies initiated by Clinton. Also, W was so obsessed with building the missile defense system that he may have spent more time hyping that rather than looking at other threats.

Why you had to post "If only Bush had watched What's Happenin?" Now I'm going to get term papers on that.

Paul said...

The Millennium plans – I assume you mean the two against the US – one was discovered only because of a search by Customs agents at the Canadian border. Had nothing to do with intelligence. Same with the planned attacks against the USS The Sullivans. An overloaded boat sinking is not a a victory for US intelligence agencies, who were clueless.. In fact, the same tactic was used to bomb the USS Cole.

The transatlantic jet plot? I assume you mean the plot halted by the Philippines gov't? Again, not a case of “receiving warnings.” Al Qaeda had blown one aircraft in a test run. The plot was uncovered only because one of the terrorists started a chemical fire in his apartment. Later reports alleged the authorities knew of the plot beforehand. Sounds rather self-serving.

If you meant the UK transatlantic plot – yes, that was good police work. The situation of focus and technique was a bit different then it was from the mid-90s to 2001. But the attempted bombings in London and Glasgow were discovered only at the point of attack.

I'll go with the two out of three. Much, much more was involved in the WTC attack than the general “commercial airliner” warnings. This was an involved operation – getting people in, enrolled, through training, financial support, other logistical support – of which we knew zilch.

Clarke's memo to Rice was general as high-level memos are – aid to the Northern Alliance and Uzbekistan, more money and respond to the Cole attack. His Strategy for Eliminating the Threat ( which is so often referred to – was not a document on how to prevent the WTC attack. Even taking all the actions he recommended would not likely have had an impact within eight months.

This is not a defense of the Bush administration. It's just a recognition of how large bureaucracies work. Clarke had been around since Reagan, he was the classic “whistling in the wind” guy. Leaders in both administrations didn't do all of what he recommended, although he got some decent efforts started and changes made.

He notes in the paper al Qaeda had declared war on the US in 1998 – but we were still in a criminal law mindset three years later. Many still are. Pres Bush kept on CIA Director Tenet from the Clinton Administration. So he had the same basic infrastructure (aside from his top appointees) in intel, State, Defense and Justice with the same general mindset that had existed for years. Again, to expect the massive changes the 911 Commission pointed to – to correct the failures – to have those occur in eight months is, I think, wishful thinking.

I haven't seen anything credible that would indicate a Pres Gore would have had a much different view from a VP Gore. In fact, I think it more reasonable to expect his actions would have gone along in the evolutionary way as we had throughout the 90s.

The gas prices – too many forces at work worldwide to expect a Pres to keep gas prices where they were five years ago. All administrations and Congresses from Carter on (altho Carter started some good actions that Reagan nixed and subsequent Congresses and Democratic administrations did not pick up) have failed the American people. From tax credits for SUVs to Rep Dingell watering down the mileage requirements (I knew if we waited about thirty years we'd get new standards) – we keep gorging along and prices will rise.

The third issue – I think a VP Gore would have started some serious efforts. But the cost of those efforts and the measurable effects are open to speculation. After what I've seen of past programs – such as his Reinventing Government – they seem long on work and short on results.

But I liked the clip.