November 30, 2004


A Dwarf Known as Al Qaeda: The threat posed by the group is hugely overblown. (Dirk Laabs, November 30, 2004, LA Times)

This month, at the BKA's annual conference, Germany's top investigators and international experts discussed what they had discovered since Sept. 11 about Al Qaeda and the international Islamist terror network. The main thing they have learned is that there is less than meets the eye.

Yes, Al Qaeda was once centralized, structured and powerful, but that was before the U.S. pulverized its camps and leadership in Afghanistan.

In other words, this battle in the war on terror might already be over. It's as an ex-CIA agent once said: "I quit the agency at the end of the Cold War because I was tired of politicians making me describe the Soviet Union as a 20-foot giant — when it was really only a dwarf."

Fortunatel the President grasped from the outset that dealing with the terrorists was the easy part and that our broader focus had to be on liberalizing the Middle East, something John Kerry, with his talk of pursuing merely a law enforcement model, never seemed to grasp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 30, 2004 9:28 AM

Yes - A terrorist group that does not have the backing of a state is no threat, and now that Al Qaeda has lost its backers Iraq and Afghanistan, it is no longer a threat. However, a similar, but even more dangerous, threat is posed by terror groups like Hezbollah organized by disciplined enemies like Iran and Syria, aided by their alliance to nuclear powers North Korea and China (and pre-9/11 Pakistan). The threat of nuclear terrorism is real, and we need to deter it by continuing regime change and the promotion of democracy.

Posted by: pj at November 30, 2004 10:17 AM

Well stated, pj.

However, I would not write the obituaries for al-Qaeda yet. There are still millions of sympathizers all over the globe, many in the US. It is not hard for these clowns to strap bombs on themselves and self-detonate in Grand Central Station during rush hour.

Nuclear terrorism is a very real threat. All you need is cash and North Korea will certainly sell you the appropriate weaponry. Since we have yet to figure out that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are our enemies not our friends in this war, we are easy pickins.

Posted by: Bart at November 30, 2004 10:21 AM

Other "experts" are predicting big attack this year.

Some lefty prognosticator said terrorism was "overblown" as a threat; just before 9/11.

I tend to agree with OJ's analysis, but triumphalism may be premature.

Posted by: BB at November 30, 2004 10:40 AM

Memo about Al Quaeda wanting to attack US was also ignored right before 9/11.

Posted by: at November 30, 2004 10:49 AM

typo -- al Qaeda

Posted by: at November 30, 2004 10:51 AM


It was overblown. What did 9-11 get them?

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 10:52 AM

Tell the 9/11 families the threat was overblown. In person.

Posted by: at November 30, 2004 10:55 AM

Even 3,000 dead Americans doesn't make someoner a serious threat, anymore than Pearl Harbor made Japan a threat. Any fool can kill people, but endangering American society is much harder. Islamicists aren't capable of it.

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 11:05 AM

Well, with the wrong people running the government, something like 9/11 does become a threat, if leadership refuses to take the action needed to prevent future attacks, and you end up with people making major alterations to their lifestyles because of both actual and feared future terrorist attacks (the fact that the American left seems to be completely unchanged from their Sept. 10 mindset is actually a tribute to how successful GWB's war on terror has been. Had we been attacked under President Gore on Sept. 11, either the far left or Gore's Democratic party would be profoundly diffrent today, or the stress levels in the country would be substantially higher).

Posted by: John at November 30, 2004 2:23 PM

People who live in big cities (aka potential targets) are hardly "completely unchanged from their Sept. 10th mindset."

Posted by: at November 30, 2004 2:39 PM


Anyu president would have done much the same, a Democrat more easily because the GOP is more loyal in wartime.

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 2:47 PM

Japan may not have seemed like much of a threat to Orrin in New Hampshire, but it was a very real threat to the Filipinos, whose welfare was the responsibility of the US government at the time.

A threat completely fulfilled, thanks in large part to the Republicans who thought a piece of paper was sufficient fulfillment of their sworn duty.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 30, 2004 10:14 PM


Ha! Good one! We fought the Japanese to save the Filipinos? Your Dad tell you that when he said he joined the Navy to stop the Holocaust?

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 11:23 PM

I would have acted with understanding, resolve and deep, deep desire to understand why our nation had been attacked so violently. What had we done to so provoke them? What needs to change in our society to make others not hate us? These are the tough questions I would have asked and would have guided the American people in answering. we would have had focus groups, townhall meetings, seminars and much more, had I been at my rightful place on 9/11.

Posted by: President Gore at November 30, 2004 11:30 PM

We didn't do a very good job of saving the Filipinos, thanks to Roosevelt's cowardice in allowing the Republicans to force the retention of the incompetent MacArthur.

But the government had a responsibility to do so.

If you read 'War Plan Orange,' you'd learn that the inability of the US to discharge that obligation, given the lack of military force that Coolidge chose, was recognized in the early 1920s by the Navy.

The 'navy second to none' that was passed under Wilson would have done the job, but Harding scrapped it, and the pacifists and isolationists and defeatists never let up.

My dad joined the Navy before Pearl Harbor, Orrin. He understood about Hitler and the Jews but he didn't know about the Holocaust because it hadn't happened yet.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 1, 2004 2:02 AM


You are quite right. 'War Plan Orange' makes for appalling reading.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 1, 2004 6:57 AM


The Japanese attacked the Philippines in the 1920s?

War Plan Orange is certainly a blackmark on FDR's presidency, but there are so many others it hardly ranks.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:34 AM

A "Navy second to none" built in the 20's and 30's would have been a battleship navy of little use in fighting Japan or holding/retaking the Phillipines.

MacArthur's war plan in the Pacific, though somewhat ruthless, was much better than the Navy's. If anything, MacArthur was overly obsessed with the Phillipines, giving them too much weight in his planning.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 1, 2004 9:58 AM

And now that I think about it, MacArthur's plan was better because he was thinking like an infantryman, and with a professional's eye for logistics. I'm surprised you don't like him.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 1, 2004 10:03 AM


Would Cox, Davis, or Al Smith treated the Navy differently (after the war)?

Japan's raison d'etre from the mid-20s going forward was military expansion. The US didn't work that way, in the Philippines or anywhere else.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 1, 2004 11:27 AM

It has been a while since I read WPO, but IIRC, the plan had no credible logistical basis, hanging the soldiers out there to dry in the actual event.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 1, 2004 12:04 PM

Because there was no navy to support them.

The conclusion of Orange was that without bases and a clearly superior fleet, there was no way to support the garrison in the Philippines, and since the Republicans, defeatists and pacificists refused to expand the garrison, the Navy declared that the Philippines should not be defended, because they could not be.

That was part of the reason (but not all) that the Philippines were being given independence.

MacArthur claimed he could defend them with the Philippines Army and a few B-17s. FDR fell for it.

MacArthur couldn't train or equip the army, and he let the B-17s be destroyed on the ground.

David, for someone who even knows what logistics is, you surprise me. MacArthur did not bother to move his munitions and supplies to Bataan, although the Bataan redoubt had been part of Army planning for a stand in the Philippines since the early 1900s.

Therefore his army starved and died of sickness, even faster than the Japanese could kill them.

MacArthur was an incompetent gloryhound who got a lot of people (most of them Filipinos) killed needlessly and took a bribe of $500,000 to do it.

If he'd had his way, he wouldn't have gotten to Formosa until 1946, Japan, maybe, in '47.

My father was there. The Navy was disgusted with MacArthur. 'Golden Gate in '48' was the slogan.

The Central Pacific drive was cheaper and faster.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 1, 2004 8:33 PM


And anything that Harry heard directly is therefore true.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:37 PM


Nobody ever 'liked' MacArthur except his mother. Remember, the moniker "Dugout Doug" was coined in 1918, not later.

He was a strange mixture of genius and foolish pride. Even in Korea, he devised Inchon but then thought himself so powerful that he ignored the Chinese.

Wasn't all of America pacifist in the 20s?

Posted by: ratbert at December 1, 2004 9:26 PM


What Harry says very much corroborates what I learned in the Air Force Intermediate Service School. We went into WPO in some detail.

Given that WPO is not a best seller, I am quite impressed that Harry has read it.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 2, 2004 7:21 AM


I agreed with Harry that WPO was disastrous and it is a devastating comment on FDR's incompetence as Commander.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 7:35 AM

Harry -- I admit I was talking more about his plan for fighting the war once the Phillipines was lost, not the losing of the Phillipines.

So, in the 20s and 30s the Navy was saying that it couldn't fulfill its mission without building a lot of new ships? Wow, times sure have changed. The problem is that, had they been given the go-ahead to build ships, they would have built exactly the wrong ships. The US Navy was a battleship navy right up until they changed. Funny that we know the time and date of that change.

As for the war in the Pacific, my sympathies are all with the Marines, who for good reason hated both the Navy and MacArthur. It was just nuts, though, to try (as the Navy wanted) to take back the Pacific island by island and cave by cave. MacArthur noticed that the Japanese supply lines were unsupportable, easily disrupted and that most of the island garrisons were better left to rot until they could be taken easily.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 2, 2004 1:41 PM


Regardless of what the Navy would have done, as the Navy existed, WPO was unsupportable.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 2, 2004 2:03 PM


That's why FDR built all those ships from 1932 to 1941.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 2:12 PM

Don't forget, the British went through the same surprise we did when the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse" were sunk by Japanese planes just 3 days later. Singapore didn't hold out, either.

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 2, 2004 8:13 PM