Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 15, 2009

A SERIES OF COUNTER-TERRORISM VICTORIES.... For the political world, the focus is obviously on health care reform, and to a lesser extent, financial reform and energy policy. But turning attention to national security policy, it seems the United States has scored some recent victories that haven't generated a lot of attention. This, for example, is a significant development.

American commandos killed one of the most wanted Islamic militants in Africa in a daylight raid in southern Somalia on Monday, according to American and Somali officials, an indication of the Obama administration's willingness to use combat troops strategically against Al Qaeda's growing influence in the region.

Western intelligence agents have described the militant, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, as the ringleader of a Qaeda cell in Kenya responsible for the bombing of an Israeli hotel on the Kenyan coast in 2002. Mr. Nabhan may have also played a role in the attacks on two American embassies in East Africa in 1998.

American military forces have been hunting him for years, and on Monday, around 1 p.m., villagers near the town of Baraawe said four military helicopters suddenly materialized over the horizon and shot at two trucks rumbling through the desert.

The trucks were carrying leaders of the Shabab, an Islamist extremist group fighting to overthrow Somalia's weak but internationally recognized government. The Shabab work hand-in-hand with foreign terrorists, according to Western and Somali agents, and in the past few months, as the battle for control of Somalia has intensified, the group seems to be drawing increasingly close to Al Qaeda.

A senior American adviser told the Times, "This is very significant because it takes away a person who's been a main conduit between the East Africa extremists and big Al Qaeda."

The strike came the same day as counterterrorism officials raided several residences in Queens, where suspected terrorists are believed to have been plotting.

Yesterday's news comes on the heels of U.S. forces killing Baitullah Mehsud, the top leader of the Taliban in Pakistan and a key al Qaeda ally, who was believed to be responsible for the Benazir Bhutto assassination and scores of suicide bombings.

And that report came on the heels of counterterrorism officials thwarting another possible plot in New York.

All of this comes against the backdrop of al Qaeda's reported difficulties, fueled in part by U.S. strikes.

Taken together, it seems like the Obama administration is having quite a bit of success on the counterterrorism front. Indeed, if these developments had occurred in 2008, I suspect the White House would be releasing photos of Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol chest-bumping each other on the South Lawn.

Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a very foolish item, arguing that President Obama prefers a "see-no-evil approach," has decided not to "worry so much about terrorism."

The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

Yes, but if the MSM does not report it, did it actually happen?

Remember, they have a Democratic 'weak on terror' meme that they have been instructed to put forth and maintain.

Posted by: terraformer on September 15, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

It's easy, really. Don't offend those who are willing to help, even if they wear funny clothes and speak weird languages.
And all of a sudden you get loads of hints about your enemies.

Posted by: Vokoban on September 15, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the difference in chest-bumping between this admin and the last is quite striking.

Now if we can just nail bin Laden, we might actually have a chance of getting out of Afghanistan.

Posted by: Comrade Jake on September 15, 2009 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, the killing of this one man will make no difference at all.

The number-two man in Al Qaeda has been killed countless times, and yet hey, still a new video by one of numerous bin Ladens a few days ago; Al Qaeda on the run, no place to hide, the light at the end of the tunnel...

Steve, it's all kabuki, and the WSJ has to play its part according to the script.

In the last act, in dramatic smoke and darkness, the American's will depart from the roof of the embassy in Kabul. We've seen this theater production before.

Posted by: Golly Gee on September 15, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

And there you have it. This is what should have been the procedure all along , following the British model. It is intellegence and good police work that breaks up the cells, not B52's and tanks. Most of the intellegence chest bumping by the previous administration involved rolling out some hapless chumps who had been entraped and set up by an informant who was getting paid for results (Hello! Miami 7 anyone, they couldn't even afford shoes)

Posted by: John R on September 15, 2009 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Yes but: In related news, the Administration cut the George W. Bush Terror Alert Scale from 5 levels to 3.

I feel SO much less safe, now. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 15, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

The WSJ prefers a see-no-good policy. Always has.

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on September 15, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Wow- An intern is probably about to get fired. Sounds like the WSJ accidentally ran an eight year old article.

Posted by: Kevin Ray on September 15, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

So much for Cheney's view that Obama is not serious about protecting America.

Posted by: bob h on September 15, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

One piece of evidence you didn't mention is that at Gitmo one of the most popular books checked out of the library by inmates is Obama's "Dreams of My Father". I imagine it's pretty popular among real terrorist prospects too.

Posted by: markg8 on September 15, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

The media is too busy chasing the next shiny object that attracts eyeballs to spend anytime looking at the 8 year-old war on terror. If it doesn't fit into the stereotyped meme that the GOP/Washington culture has established, it isn't convenient and it isn't news.

Now, if a bomb goes of in Manhattan, the media would be more than happy to talk about counter terrorism again and comply with the "is Obama really keeping us safe?" meme.

Posted by: oh well on September 15, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

It makes little difference how many al Qaeda leaders we kill. What matters is the perception of the US in the minds of the people in the region. If we continue to be perceived as interfering in the internal politics of these countries while professing "democracy" and "freedom", we will be seen as hypocritical. If we continue to send billions to Israel while publically professing support for a two-state settlement, we will be perceived as hypocritical. The reason for this perception is blazingly obvious: we are behaving hypocritically!! So, we can kill as many "terrorists" as we want (and certainly that is something we are good at), but we simply create more opposition to our polices and interests, and ultimately we will create worse and more dangerous enemies (nuclear Pakistan).

Posted by: Jason on September 15, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't describe Obama's approach to terrorism as, "see no evil." It's more like, "Less talk, more action."

Posted by: Indiana Joe on September 15, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

We all know how this game is played. Obama could go to Afghanistan, capture Bin Laden himself and strangle him with his bare hands and the WSJ would still call him soft on terrorism. Bush can and did preside over the worst failure of American security in our history, and the worst attack on the American mainland, and still be hailed as the leader chosen by God to Keep Us Safe at a time of crisis.

Posted by: T-Rex on September 15, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal ran a very foolish item, arguing that President Obama prefers a "see-no-evil approach," has decided not to "worry so much about terrorism."

Well, let's not forget that the President said of Osama bin Laden "I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."

Oh, wait, that was President George W. Bush who said that, not President Obama. My bad.....

Posted by: Stefan on September 15, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

First, I salute President Obama. Well done, sir.

Second, let's hope the ICC doesn't indict President Obama and his cabinet for war crimes in ordering the assassination of a man who must be presumed innocent since he was never tried or convicted of anything.

Posted by: DBL on September 15, 2009 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone else get the feeling our new, young, naive president is a little blood-thirsty? Striking. Maybe he is hoping he can knock off Al Quaida and the Taliban leaders and no one will notice. heh
I really admire the Special Ops--very surgical, clean and accurate. Times said Bush used Tomahawk missles. Ok if nec, but kills a lot of innocents.

Posted by: cat on September 15, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

The number-two man in Al Qaeda has been killed countless times, and yet hey, still a new video by one of numerous bin Ladens a few days ago; Al Qaeda on the run, no place to hide, the light at the end of the tunnel...

Of course, no one in the administration is saying any of this. The difference between the Bush Administration's crowing about their actions and this Adminstration's approach is so vast that it might be more credible to think it might be actually be working. No one is saying this job's almost done, but neither should we think that this is the end-all clash of civilizations.

To hear the Bushies say it, terrorists are everywhere and we're this close to being overrun by them. To hear you say it, terrorism barely exists and the whole thing is a figment of our hyperactive imagination. I completely disagree with both assumptions. Terrorism is a threat, but it's not an existential one. And while it will never vanish, it can be mitigated through police work, special units and, at least in the UK, by open trials.

Steve, it's all kabuki, and the WSJ has to play its part according to the script.

It's absurd statements like this that allows people to safely ignore foreign policy advice that comes from the left.

Posted by: Jay B. on September 15, 2009 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

> one of the most popular books checked out

That's because it has more pages, and therefore is more useful as toilet paper. Even allowing for double spacing and a huge font, they didn't get much mileage out of "My Pet Goat", and the extremely redacted "Undisclosed Vocation (Go F^&* Yourself!)".

Posted by: royalblue_tom on September 15, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

For anyone interested, here's how we really killed Saleh Ali Nabhan
(Hint: It WASN'T a helicopter strike):
Obama's Commandos of Love

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on September 15, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK
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