Wednesday, February 28, 2007

NYT Gets It Right, Wrong & Left on Afghanistan - & NYT Misses the Vietnam Parallel

The NYT, in their follow up article on the suicide bombing in Afghanistan allegedly targeting VP Cheney:

Get it right - the Taliban is growing in strength;

Get it wrong - Suicide bombings are not a sign of that strength

Get it left - gratuitous "anonymous" criticisms of the Bush administration with no basis in reality;

And NYT misses the parallel with Vietnam: If the enemy has a safe haven; they are almost impossible to defeat.

The NYT Gets It Right.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban appear stronger and more emboldened
in the region than at any time since the American invasion of the country five years ago, and since the Bush administration claimed to have decimated much of their middle management.

That is right. The Taliban were decimated and they fall back into Pakistan, into the radical Deobandi madrasas from which they grew. The area into which they fell was Northwestern Frontier Provinces -- an area so wild that the Pakistani government has never held sway there, even though it is nominally part of Pakistan. And we know that, over the past several years, the Taliban has reorganized, trained and recruited, probably with the support of rouge elements of Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI.

The NYT Gets It Wrong -

The audacity of a suicide-bomb attack . . . underscores . . . a deepening . . . concern that the Taliban and Al Qaeda are resurgent.

American officials insisted that the importance of the attack, by a single suicide bomber who blew himself up a mile away from where the vice president was staying, was primarily symbolic. It was more successful at grabbing headlines and filling television screens with a scene of carnage than at getting anywhere near Mr. Cheney.

But the strike nonetheless demonstrated that Al Qaeda and the Taliban appear stronger and more emboldened in the region . . .
Resorting to suicide attacks, as a historical rule, demonstrates military weakness. Such attacks are only used when the attacker does not have the military strength to achieve a victory on the battlefield. Such attacks are not emblematic of any sort of military resurgence. The fact that such attacks are not stopped beforehand is emblematic of how difficult it is to identify such attacks in advance. That is much more of a police function then a military one.

Two, the NYT hints around it but does not seem to grasp the import of such attacks. The main goal of militant Muslim suicide attacks is to be consumed by the western electorate through the prism of the Western press, who aid the terrorism through their "if it bleeds, it leads" philosophy. Suicide attacks have been adapted by the Taliban precisely for that cause. The Taliban, though insane by our standards, are by no means stupid. And they see the cumulative effect of press reports of suicide attacks on the western electorate -- the election of a group of representatives and senators who want nothing more then to leave Iraq. Thus the Taliban would be fools not to adopt such a strategy.

The NYT gets it Left:

[C]ritics [of Bush and Cheney] . . . said the strike was another reminder of how Iraq had diverted the Bush administration from finishing the job in Afghanistan.
Oh, spare me. Who said that, the author? the editor? Please, that is just so nonsensical at this point. The Taliban were driven from Afghanistan. More troops were not needed to accomplish that. And as I recall, the cries about more troops in Afghanistan had much more to do with capturing bin Laden. That is ancient history.

Two, would another two battalions in Kabul have stopped a lone suicide bomber from infiltrating? Hardly.

The NYT Misses the Vietnam Parallel:

For all of the attempts of the left to draw parallels between Vietnam and our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is the one place were such a parallel would have been accurate. The Vietnam War actually began in the early 1950's, during the Eisenhower administration. The reason it dragged on twenty years was because the prime element responsible for the war, the communist North Vietnamese, had an untouchable safe haven in their own country. It was Nixon's bombing of Hanoi in December, 1972 that finally led the North Vietnamese to come seriously to the table for peace talks. One of the first rules of war is not to allow an enemy a safe haven. That is, unfortunately, what we have with the Taliban, and al Qaeda today, safe in nominally Pakistani territory. That is a real Vietnam parallel. And it is the one that needs to be addressed immediately. The NYT missed that one.

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