Risk-averse bu­reau­cracy ex­tended his life ...

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Osama bin Laden is dead. As the re­sult of a well-chore­ographed and flaw­lessly ex­e­cuted mis­sion by U.S. spe­cial-op­er­a­tions and in­tel­li­gence per­son­nel, one of his­tory’s great vil­lains has been killed. It has taken a great deal of time and enor­mous quan­ti­ties of blood and trea­sure to get here. We should sa­vor the mo­ment.

Then we should stop and con­sider why it took us 10 years to make this hap­pen.

In De­cem­ber 2001, the men of the CIA’s Jaw­breaker team and Army Spe­cial Forces had bin Laden and many of his sup­port­ers trapped at Tora Bora.

Al Qaeda and the Tal­iban were reel­ing.

A hand­ful of Amer­i­can per­son­nel on the ground work­ing with the U.S. Air Force and lo­cal Afghan forces had brought us to the brink of to­tal vic­tory.

That mo­ment was squan­dered.

The forces of Wash­ing­ton bu­reau­cracy weighed in, and the rec­om­men­da­tions of the men on the ground were ig­nored. Risk aver­sion took hold.

In place of bold, de­ci­sive ac­tion were sub­sti­tuted in­de­ci­sion, staff re­view and sec­ondguess­ing.

While we hes­i­tated, bin Laden walked out to safety. It has taken a full decade for us to re­cover from that er­ror.

In that decade, al Qaeda has con­tin­ued to evolve and spread. The cen­ter of grav­ity for al Qaeda plots against the United States right now is nei­ther Afghanistan nor Pak­istan. It is Ye­men. Af­fil­i­ates have spread through­out Europe. So­ma­lia is all but un­der the con­trol of alShabab, an Is­lamic mili­tia al­lied with al Qaeda.

In­creas­ingly in the United States, we are faced with threats that come from over­seas only in the sense that that is their ide­o­log­i­cal ori­gin. The ter­ror­ists them­selves are drawn from our own pop­u­la­tion and are rad­i­cal­ized in place with­out ever trav­el­ing abroad.

While the en­emy adapts and in­no­vates, we con­tinue to re­spond slowly, pon­der­ously and bu­reau­crat­i­cally.

Faced with a threat from rel­a­tive hand­fuls of ter­ror­ists and the need to track them down and elim­i­nate them, we de­ploy mas­sive con­ven­tional forces, build huge bases and airstrips, ini­ti­ate enor­mous gov­ern­ment aid pro­grams and con­duct the func­tional equiv­a­lent of siege war­fare rather than the type of rapid, un­con­ven­tional ac­tions that are re­quired.

There are vir­tu­ally no al Qaeda per­son­nel in Afghanistan any­more, yet we main­tain a force of more than 100,000 mil­i­tary per­son­nel on the ground there and have mired our­selves in an open-ended, ru­inously ex­pen­sive and highly prob­lem­atic ex­er­cise in nation-build­ing. Within Pak­istan, we have set­tled into a long-term strate­gic re­la­tion­ship with a gov­ern­ment that is a re­luc­tant ally at best and are waging some­thing akin to a strate­gic bomb­ing cam­paign in the tribal ter­ri­to­ries along the Pak­istan-Afghanistan bor­der. In fis­cal 2010, we pro­vided in ex­cess of $4 bil­lion in mil­i­tary and eco­nomic aid to the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment. That fig­ure does not be­gin to ad­dress the cost of our own ef­forts in the nation.

At home, we have de­voted our en­ergy largely to the cre­ation of new bu­reau­cra­cies, pur­su­ing the time-hon­ored Wash­ing­ton tra­di­tion of at­tempt­ing to solve prob­lems by sim­ply throw­ing money at them.

The Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, once con­ceived of as a small co­or­di­nat­ing body of 150 per­sons, now em­ploys thou­sands.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity is build­ing a huge new head­quar­ters com­plex. All across the Wash­ing­ton area, tens of thou­sands of new con­tract jobs have been cre­ated. For­tunes have been made from the vast sums ex­pended in the cre­ation of this mas­sive coun­tert­er­ror­ist ap­pa­ra­tus.

Vir­tu­ally none of the mas­sive, lum­ber­ing de­fense and home­land se­cu­rity bu­reau­cra­cies con­trib­utes di­rectly to ac­tion on the ground, ei­ther at home or abroad. The Of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, for ex­am­ple, sits atop the pre-ex­ist­ing in­tel­li­gence struc­ture. It col­lects no in­tel­li­gence. What anal­y­sis it pro­duces largely du­pli­cates that al­ready cre­ated by other agen­cies.

What all of this struc­ture does add, how­ever, is what bu­reau­cracy al­ways cre­ates: process and de­lay.

In a war in which speed and agility are of the essence, this is fa­tal.

Coun­tert­er­ror­ist op­er­a­tions do not suc­ceed based on the amount of pa­per­work associated with them or by virtue of the size of the staffs be­hind them.

They suc­ceed based on the skill, dar­ing and speed of the op­er­a­tors who con­duct them. In the world of coun­tert­er­ror­ism, less is more.

You ei­ther seize an op­por­tu­nity or you do not.

Your ad­ver­sary does not stand still, and he does not wait for you to catch up.

In 2001, we needed to fin­ish the job, kill bin Laden, in­stall a gov­ern­ment in Kabul that would pre­vent that nation from be­ing used as a base for at­tacks on our nation and move on. Sim­i­larly, in Pak­istan we needed to move rapidly, de­ci­sively and, prob­a­bly in many cases, uni­lat­er­ally, to hunt down the ter­ror­ists har­bor­ing there and move on. Our en­emy was shift­ing shape and adapt­ing. We needed to move with him, not lum­ber along be­hind.

We have done what we should have 10 years ago. We can­not con­tinue to run a decade be­hind in this con­test, nor can we con­tinue to em­ploy stan­dard bu­reau­cratic method­olo­gies to con­front the en­emy.

We need to be faster, smarter and more ag­ile.

We need to trim the bu­reau­cracy, elim­i­nate un­nec­es­sary lay­ers of com­mand, move away from the em­ploy­ment of large con­ven­tional forces and get ahead of the game. It’s time to stop play­ing catch-up.

Charles S. Fad­dis is a re­tired CIA op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer, for­mer chief of the CIA’s weapons-of­mass-de­struc­tion terrorism unit and au­thor of “Be­yond Re­pair” (Lyons Press, 2009).

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