Muck and Mystery
   Loitering With Intent
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May 02, 2011
The Unit

After 9/11 my concern was that the USA would do state terrorism in response to the non-state terrorism and so become as bad as their antagonists. Reciprocating in kind, bombing some valued target and killing non-combatants - analogous to destroying the WTC - is the sort of tit-for-tat response that would have been deeply wrong. A formal war declaration was less bad, though still bad since it harms all societies involved, not least by spilling blood and treasure by the boat load.

We seem to have finally done some of what I then thought was an appropriate response.

After bursts of fire over 40 minutes, 22 people were killed or captured. One of the dead was Osama bin Laden, done in by a double tap -- boom, boom -- to the left side of his face. His body was aboard the choppers that made the trip back. One had experienced mechanical failure and was destroyed by U.S. forces, military and White House officials tell National Journal.

Were it not for this high-value target, it might have been a routine mission for the specially trained and highly mythologized SEAL Team Six, officially called the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, but known even to the locals at their home base Dam Neck in Virginia as just DevGru. ...

How did the helos elude the Pakistani air defense network? Did they spoof transponder codes? Were they painted and tricked out with Pakistan Air Force equipment? If so -- and we may never know -- two other JSOC units, the Technical Application Programs Office and the Aviation Technology Evaluation Group, were responsible. These truly are the silent squirrels -- never getting public credit and not caring one whit. Since 9/11, the JSOC units and their task forces have become the U.S. government’s most effective and lethal weapon against terrorists and their networks, drawing plenty of unwanted, and occasionally unflattering, attention to themselves in the process. ...

people familiar with the unit suggest that McChrystal and Flynn introduced hardened commandos to basic criminal forensic techniques and then used highly advanced and still-classified technology to transform bits of information into actionable intelligence. One way they did this was to create forward-deployed fusion cells, where JSOC units were paired with intelligence analysts from the NSA and the NGA. Such analysis helped the CIA to establish, with a high degree of probability, that Osama bin Laden and his family were hiding in that particular compound.

These technicians could “exploit and analyze” data obtained from the battlefield instantly, using their access to the government’s various biometric, facial-recognition, and voice-print databases. These cells also used highly advanced surveillance technology and computer-based pattern analysis to layer predictive models of insurgent behavior onto real-time observations.

I'm aware that not everyone agrees that these sorts of actions are the proper way to respond to terrorism. They appeal to me since they are focused on truly bad guys and strike with more precision. The argument that some society, such as Afghanistan, is guilty and so liable for harboring terrorists, which justifies conquest, makes no sense to me since in any society the vast majority of people are just trying to make it through the day and raise their families. Wrecking their world is a waste, even if they can somehow be vilified for not policing their bad doers well enough to prevent 9/11 type events. Fast, focused, lethal strikes on the true culprits may terrorize the bad guys, but not civilians. This is a fitting response and we should be, and perhaps are, getting good at it.

I really don't like this stuff, and have a general stance that war is bad for all parties concerned, especially the way it inflates and skews the size and role of governments, but can't quite see a workable way to avoid it all in our fractious world. Defense is required. The distinction between defense and offense is fuzzy at the boundaries, and this ability to project targeted attack is in the grey area for me. I'm still thinking about the whole issue, but have to admit that this particular operation was received gladly. Heaven help me.

Update: Homo-Hypocritus.

Yes, it's true that some pre-January 2009 antiwar activists have remained morally and logically consistent in their opposition to America's military presence in the Mideast; but, thank God, it appears now they were only a tiny, insignificant minority. Recent events have happily made clear that the antiwar movement of 2001-8 was overwhelmingly dominated by a vast silent hypocritical majority of craven political opportunists awaiting a Democratic administration to gleefully celebrate the covert execution of a man whom, until 28 months ago, they would have described as a "tragic civilian casualty."

Who is to credit for this rebirth in American national unity? First and foremost, we must cite the leadership of President Obama. Like many Americans - and the Nobel Peace Prize committee - I naively feared he was actually serious when he initially proposed shutting down Guantanamo, trying detainees in American civilian courts, and prior consultation with the international community. Little did I know that this untested young Commander-in-Chief would muster the courage to read his weekly Gallup numbers and, in one daring unilateral extra-judicial targeted hit job, toss aside every single idiotic foreign policy principle of his election campaign. Perhaps most satisfyingly, it was a mission made possible thanks to information extracted by methods he previously banned as "illegal torture."

Sadly, this is not an Iowahawk piece. Well, it is, but it's one of those rare ones that reports the news straight and it sounds like a humorous fabrication.
Posted by back40 at 08:01 AM | War

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