The War Model Failed, So Let's Keep It Going

It's an interesting confluence of events just now.  As President Obama prepares to send more troops to Afghanistan (and little buddy Gordon Brown follows along), Senate Democrats issue a report blaming the Bush administration for letting Osama bin Laden go, and India marks the first anniversary of the Mumbai attack. Brown, in a moment just as precisely timed as the release of the Senate Democrats' report, demands that Pakistan must get serious about rounding up bin Laden and Zawahiri, as if he's the last one to realize that nation has been playing a double game since the whole War on Terror drama began.

According to the report, the military had less than 100 troops searching for bin Laden when he and his aides walked unmolested into Pakistan and into our bad dreams. Rumsfeld, the report alleges, feared that greater numbers and more firepower might incite a reaction from the locals.

Or maybe he was just following his "lean and mean" theory of Army restructuring to its illogical extreme.

India, which withstood a days-long siege in Mumbai, is being feckless by American standards, choosing not to use the attack as a casus belli against its longtime rival Pakistan. What's wrong with those pacifists? They stuck in a pre-9/11 mindset?

No, they're demanding justice. And the Pakistanis, knowing their nuclear neighbor is watching every move, is bringing a clutch of suspects to trial. Trial? Haven't they heard about the dangers of bringing terrorists to trial outside a military tribunal? Think of the security expense.

Is it possible the FBI and other police agencies would have let bin Laden walk free because of loyalty to their theories of lean and mean policing? 

We are at a moment where it's possible to see the utter and complete failure of the war model as applied to what happened to America on 9/11.  Other countries have eliminated serious terrorist threats, most recently Italy and Germany in the 1970s, with rough but relatively sane policing, as India is hoping Pakistan will do now.  Only the United States thought a ragtag band of fanatics was deserving of the ultimate honor (in their eyes): a declaration, of sorts, of war.

Republicans, at least, are being consistent, raging against trials for KSM and friends, demanding the president send every soldier requested by McChrystal.  It's the Democrats, as feckless as they were during the 2002 Senate "debate" on Iraq, who are role-playing. Look what happened when John Kerry suggested, during the 2004 campaign, that the war model was misguided. What happened? He shut up about it.

Conspiracy theorists will suggest, based on the Senate report, that letting bin Laden walk was a deliberate choice to prolong the war. All that is really possible to know now is that we're in Afghanistan for a while, in deep, and bin Laden isn't. Well done, gents. Well played.
Presented by

Harry Shearer is an actor, writer, director, musician and radio host. He is best known for his role on The Simpsons and his work on Saturday Night Live. More

Harry Shearer is an actor, writer, director, musician and radio host. He is best known for his long-running roles on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons (where he voices a stable of characters including Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Rev. Lovejoy, and Scratchy). He is also part of the comedy writing and acting ensemble responsible for the mockumentaries This Is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration. His most recent book is the novel Not Enough Indians. He also hosts Le Show on NPR's Santa Monica affiliate.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


Photos of New York City, in Motion

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In