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Maximization of Intelligence
In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks President Bush took a number of actions to prevent another attack from occurring, some that gave the intelligence community carte blanche in the process. While some thought the powers President Bush gave were too broad and expansive, the statistical data cannot be argued with, that being that further attacks were avoided. Some of the abilities the CIA were given were the ability to use enhanced interrogation techniques, the most prominent being waterboarding (a practice in itself that has been derided and vilified by the left). Along with those techniques the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (Gitmo) was used to hold captured terrorists and the process of extraordinary rendition, wherein terrorist suspects are sent to foreign countries, with fewer safeguards on their interrogation methods. The purpose is largely to obtain intelligence that could not be gained otherwise.
Along with these tactics the CIA was allowed to maintain a series of “black sites,” a series of secret prisons used by the CIA to detain and interrogate terrorists. Within his first few days in office President Obama sought to close Gitmo and put constraints on rendition however. In addition to this he signed an Executive Order that allowed for the interrogation techniques in the Army Field Manual to be used against captured terrorists and closed the secret prison network. Whereas you can give him credit for not following through on these promises to the full extent that his leftist supporters wanted, the fact that the black sites were closed and that there was an active attempt to close Gitmo showed a president who was naïve about the nature of the GWOT. When it comes down to it the GWOT is an intelligence driven war, a war in which the attainment of information can be the difference between saving hundreds or perhaps thousands of lives.
When you deprive the intelligence community of the means to obtain that intelligence by not allowing enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding and only allow them the use of Army Field Manual techniques or of abilities to detain such prisoners to further interrogate them, you are doing your country a disservice. Drones alone will not win the war; people need to be captured on a greater scale to obtain a fuller picture of what is happening in these groups. It also does not help when the administration leaks potentially harmful information about ongoing operations in order to boost its image. Overall President Obama and his administration by and large are unaware of what is needed to engage in a long war of this nature and do the American public no good by making these blatantly political decisions in its prosecution.
Foreign Cooperation and the World at Large
To be successful in the GWOT foreign cooperation is pivotal. You cannot successfully find such people without the assistance of foreign governments and their intelligence services. The problem with the Obama administration though is, in his behavior toward Israel, our only true ally in the Middle East, and other leaders in the region during the “Arab Spring,” thus allowing an environment to grow that will install leaders who are anything but allied to the same goals as the GWOT is, Egypt a perfect example of this. There are other, smaller nations, such as Pakistan where the US could exert more pressure to get their cooperation, which is in fact not being done. This seems to display a president who, it can be said either has little interest in maintaining longtime alliances and wants to create new ones or has little interest in foreign policy. Either way President Obama’s strategy for the GWOT is lacking. As President Theodore Roosevelt said you have to speak softly and carry a big stick; it’d seem President Obama is only speaking softly in his efforts to obtain assistance and cooperation from those most needed.
The recent revelation that a series of high-level leaks has occurred undermines the strategic goals of the US vis-à-vis the GWOT, as opposed to the speculated real intention, to boost the President’s foreign policy credentials. All the leaks have the possibility to pose a threat to obtaining the cooperation of not only foreign governments, but also possible sources of information. What government is going to want to aid the US in our strategic goals when their intelligence service’s cooperation could be revealed? Also just as important who will want to risk their life in the future when there is a risk that they and their family could be endangered by a leak? It is this type of frivolous leaking that will prevent alliances from materializing to help hunt down terrorist leaders.
Another factor that must be looked at in this regard is the state sponsors of terrorism and the inability of this administration to deal with them in an appropriate manner, namely Iran. Probably one of the largest state sponsors of Islamist terrorism in the region from Lebanon’s Hezbollah to Hamas in the Palestine and the Taliban and Shia factions during the Iraq War, it has not been properly dealt with when in fact opportunities have arisen to enact regime change. This lackluster response from the Obama Administration in 2009 displayed for the entire world to see a leader who was strategically in over his head and does not grasp the enormity that Iran impacts the GWOT. It is important to note though that regime change in Iran, is not a panacea, terrorism in the region will remain despite the fact that a major financial backer would be out of the picture.
The War on Terror is not going to go away anyway time soon. Despite the death of Osama bin Laden, which should be praised, the fact of the matter remains the threat that non-state actors and state-sponsors pose, still exists. There has been much progress made though since the early days after September 11th. What must be remembered is even though there have been many successes it is not an excuse to be complacent and more importantly to halt programs that were working to capture terrorists and save lives. The effort has to keep up, since it is such a new type of war to our sensibilities it did take a while to catch up and alter our doctrine to fit the asymmetric nature of it. Now that we have though it is not time to take away some of the vital tools that aided us in the past, instead we should be using some of these enhanced techniques still.
One of the most important things about the GWOT that must be remembered though is it is an intelligence-centric war. Success, in this war, saving possibly thousands of civilian lives, depends upon the collection and dissemination of intelligence gathered from captured terrorists. This information in the past was obtained through enhanced interrogation methods and the usage of rendition and black sites. Now however detainees can only be questioned with methods form the US Army Field Manual, thus relieving the intelligence community of a great deal of leverage they once had since this is public knowledge.
Additionally Gitmo is no longer being used as a prison for new detainees and terrorists are no longer being captured, instead killed by drones. As a result of these decisions by President Obama this very intelligence-driven war is lacking exactly what it needs to succeed. Going forward it should be stated that first off more prisoners should be taken so as to obtain the necessary intelligence to get the picture of what al-Qaeda is now, where it is strongest, and what it’s planning. Only then will there be able to be achieved the well-rounded success in this most complex of conflicts. So in effect, what needs to be done is the importance and seriousness of intelligence needs to be brought to the forefront again. For whether it is the CIA officer obtaining it or an American or indigenous SOF unit using it, it will be the determining factor in this kind of war.
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