October 26, 2004

High-Value Targets

I've got a lot of news catching-up to do, so apologies if I link to stuff that everyone's already talked about, but criminy, this little paragraph from last Friday's Post was absolutely damning:
Bush conducts the war on terrorism above all as a global hunt for a cast of evil men he knows by name and photograph. He tracks progress in daily half-hour meetings that Richard A. Falkenrath, who sometimes attended them before departing recently as deputy homeland security adviser, described as "extremely granular, about individual guys." Frances Fragos Townsend, who took the post of White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser in May, said in an interview that Bush's strategy -- now, as in the war's first days -- is to "decapitate the beast."
And this, of course, is the present administration mindset towards Iraq, where Zarqawi's reputation has been inflated to "Freedom-Hater #1" (Dr. Evil, alas, was taken), despite actual evidence that he's not a grand terrorist mastermind. A lunatic, yes, and a dangerous one, but also only a small part of a much larger problem. Focusing obsessively on one mastermind can be a bit, shall we say, counterproductive. (Although if you they catch him, it's of course a big boon for a president seeking re-election.)

Now if this was just Bush playing with his little terrorist voodoo dolls, that would be one thing. But from everything I've heard from people in Iraq, the "capture the baddies!" mindset filters down to all levels of the military, and leads to an approach that handles Iraq like a video game—stomp all the henchmen, get to the main boss, and then VROOOP: level complete! Judging from the latest IRI poll, that approach doesn't seem to be working at all. Don't get me wrong, in individual situations, I've been extremely and sincerely impressed with how our military has fared in Iraq. (Here's a great example.) But the larger strategy is all wrong, and the Post points its finger in exactly the right direction.
-- Brad Plumer 8:21 AM || ||