I am a firm believer that the dedicated asymmetric war fighter generally adapts his or her fighting style to its enemy’s defenses. Unfortunately, finding a whole in the security of a country as large and open as the United States is not hard and our intelligence and governmental structures should not be completely at fault should the enemy achieve a surprise attack. In this regard, I agree with Judge Pilsner. Especially, when he states something to the effect that we have plugged the pre 9-11 security wholes and dealt with some of the intelligence stove piping issues, yet, what stops another enemy from attacking from a different unforeseen direction or even the same enemy attacking in another unseen way. I believe that our country has changed in manners that make other terror attacks less likely but certainly not impossible.
What the 9-11 Commission Report Does Well
Reading Judge Posner’s critique stole some of my thunder in this section but, as we stated in class and as Judge Posner seconded the 9-11 Commission Report is primarily written extremely well for a government document. An American with a patriotic desire to understand what happened should come away from the report with a darn good idea. But, as a policy document we may want to view the report as a better descriptive account then having concrete, well researched and easily executable policy prescriptions or directives. With the new benefit of hindsight not only of the attacks but our policy responses to the attacks we now understand that the separation of the DCI position from CIA and the creation of the Director of National Intelligence position did not follow with exceptionally good appointments to that office. Especially, when the office now competes with the household name such as David Petraeus at CIA.
As an Arabic linguist in the National Guard and a former Arabic student at UT I find the statistic of four degrees granted in all of the United States in the Arabic language extremely astonishing. Having grown up in post 9-11 military intelligence I have had the opportunity to see how the military at least bolstered and strengthened their language programs and language assets. From the massive hiring of clearable heritage speakers to serve in controlled access facilities to developing more difficult and stringent proficiency tests for all ready trained linguists, I feel that the military, at least properly deployed recourses to bolster Arabic language capabilities. However, I am not sure rather or not they can boast the same success in other OEF related languages.
Given the purported provincial mindedness of the American people and the probable lack of Arabic//Middle East professionals at least comparable to the current level, I can see the difficulty of having to assign relative importance to bits of information and sources especially when working with limited well trained manpower. Of course, my supposition is based largely on conjecture, as I do not know the assets that the agencies possessed at the time, it does seem logical. While many may disagree with my following statement, I believe it largely to be true. I believe that culture is inextricably tied to language and langue to be inextricably tied to culture. Thus, for an analyst to be effective in dealing with Middle East terror, Arabic is a necessary prerequisite. While this is a rather silly anecdote on a small scale, I feel it to be important nonetheless. When I was deployed to Iraq, as a young soldier, I saw black fabric with gold letters strewn across many different buildings. In my non Arabic reading mind this was propaganda with intelligence value. However, they were actually eulogies for recent deaths within the neighborhood. I’m sure if folks saw me I went a long way in the winning hearts and minds department. On a larger scale though, it is the analysts responsibility to properly brief policy makers with the depth of cultural knowledge that he or she has gained throughout his or her career. Without this, the non Arabic speaking policy maker may not actually have a proper understanding of the implications of simple raw intelligence. Some of these factors may have played a role in the FBI not pursuing the FISA warrant to search the electronic data found in the property of Moussaui. It certainly played a role in the aggrandizement of misinformation coming from Baghdad, which ultimately led to catastrophic policy decisions.
A CT Policy Prescription for the future:
While I do not believe that the restructuring of the IC leads to a situation where future attacks are impossible, I do believe that the more steps we take as a country to constantly improve our intelligence and security capabilities based on our operational knowledge of our enemies and our ability to think outside the box and ascribe some recourses to thinking outside the box will ultimately make us safer. Posner warns against preparing for the last attack as much as military theorists warn against preparing for the last war. I will proffer this, employing our returning veterans with years of experience in Iraq and Afghanistan within the counterterrorism/homeland security communities will leave us safer at home.
At one time our experiences within the home countries of al-Qaida style terrorists were extremely limited. Now we have soldiers that largely understand how to operate and interact with Arab urban environments and in the case of Afghnistan, traditional training grounds of terrorist groups. I also think through years of intelligence collection within the respective AO’s on the part of military civilians and G.I.’s we are left with a much clearer picture of these areas. Since, the 9/11 attacks and for that matter Pearl Harbor proved that the most successful method of attack on the United States is the surprise attack it only makes sense to further employ the patriots that are currently in the field. The enemy may be different but, the knowledge of the institutional processes and the connection between intelligence and tactical operations largely will remain the same.