By Alan Caruba
An article in the Washington Post reports that the Central Intelligence Agency believes that al Qaeda has been, for the most part, defeated.
Forgive me for not celebrating quite yet because, if memory serves me right, the trillion dollars we spend annually on intelligence gathering has not always produced the most sterling results.
Wasn’t this the same agency that provided “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Isn’t this the same agency that leaks politically sensitive information to the press to undermine administrations with which it is at odds? Isn’t this the same agency that ate up and spit out Porter Goss when he was sent there to get it under control for such misbehavior? Isn’t this the former employer of Valerie Plame whose husband, Joe Wilson, attacked the decision to invade Iraq?
This is not to suggest that having a CIA isn’t a good idea in a dangerous world, but the agency has in recent years become too involved in domestic politics, thus leading me to believe that its most recent announcement about al Qaeda, while good news, may also have a subtext.
I, frankly, would be happier if the CIA returned to destabilizing unfriendly governments. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez comes to mind or Iran’s Mamoud Amadinejad, but we’re told that the CIA doesn’t do that any more. It is useful to remember they were both elected to office. The ruin that such people inevitably cause is usually sufficient to bring about their overthrow at some point. The lesson is that it takes time, but Americans are an impatient lot.
The likelihood that al Qaeda is in big trouble is attributable to its policy of killing as many fellow Muslims as possible in order to make way for a new caliphate with Osama bin Laden as the new mahdi. He is reportedly in charge of a small hut in Waziristan somewhere in the northwestern frontier region of Afghanistan, an area whose local chamber of commerce has failed miserably to turn into a tourist destination.
Several times in the past Islam has gone forth to bring the blessings of Muhammad to the world with its armies. It was repulsed in Europe, the seat of Western Civilization, Now it depends on a handful of faithful whose job is to blow up themselves and others to achieve this. This latter technique has not gone unnoticed in the Middle East, as well as in places like Madrid, London, and Bali. Surely paradise is running out of virgins by now.
When al Qaeda destroyed the Twin Towers and attacked the Pentagon on 9/11, the Bush administration sent some CIA folk, along with some military, to chase them and the Taliban out of Afghanistan with some success. Since we were in the vicinity, the decision was made to topple Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, a dictator. Libya's dictator took note, gave up its nuclear program, and has been less of a problem of late.
History is experienced by those who live it day to day and the loss of military personnel is always painful, the waste of money is always predictable. Wars of transformation are always messy. However, the CIA is quite accurate in saying that al Qaeda in Iraq has been defeated. Its methods managed to achieve the impossible, the cooperation of Sunnis and Shias with one another.
In much the same way Truman’s decision to drive the North Koreans back beyond the 38th parallel has long since been vindicated by a thriving, democratic South Korea, I suspect that in fifty years or so Americans will look back at the Iraq invasion and occupation as a success as well. Like Truman, Bush will leave office with the lowest popularity ratings, but being President isn’t always about being popular. It is about being right.
The CIA has probably been wrong as many times as it has been right. A fresh batch of spies and analysts has largely replaced the old guard. I hope and believe it is right about al Qaeda.