Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars should scare the hell out of you. It is essential reading—between the lines—for anyone seeking a map out of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Here’s an example: If and when a terrorist attack occurs in the United States which can be traced to Pakistan, the American military response will be a “retribution plan” to bomb at least 150 targets in Pakistan. The plan is “one of the most sensitive and secret of all military contingencies,” Woodward writes. There is no discussion of The Day After in this scenario of saturation bombing. That’s another secret.
Such an attack already has been attempted this year, when Faisal Shahzad, who was funded and trained by the Pakistani Taliban, placed a car bomb in Times Square on May 1. Last year the FBI arrested an AQ operative, Najibullah Zazi, for planning to blow up New York subways with 14 backpack bombs, and also nabbed Chicago resident David Coleman Headley for planning an attack in Europe. Both individuals were trained in Pakistan.
In addition, Woodward reveals that a May 26, 2009 secret presidential briefing headlined “North American al Qaeda trainees may influence targets and tactics in the United States and Canada” announced that at least twenty Al Qaeda with Western passports were training in Pakistan safe havens to return to the West for high-profile actions. Elsewhere Woodward says Al Qaeda is recruiting and training people from the 35 countries who don’t need visas to enter the US.
The reader is left with the impression that another massive and traumatic assault is to be expected in the US in the near future. We are living “on borrowed time,” according to one adviser. Obama himself vows to Woodward that “we can absorb a terrorist attack” and that “we are stronger” after absorbing the 9/11 attacks. He adds, in his low-keyed manner, that “a potential game changer would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, blowing up a major American city.” Such is the new realism.
I am not ready to share this information with my ten-year-old son. Has Obama told his daughters? Is it best that no one know while trusting the experts to protect us?
As we await “the game changer,” we learn that the Pentagon already is protecting us by a top-secret war in Pakistan, the new “center of gravity,” plus an expedited escalation in Afghanistan featuring nightly raids by special forces. Between 2004-7, there were only nine drone strikes; in 2008, the number rose to 34; in 2009, 53; there have been eighty so far this year. Night raids in Afghanistan have risen from one hundred per month, to 1,000 per month. The savagery is kept secret from the American people, but not the Muslim world.
That’s not all. Woodward neglects to describe, at least for this book, the secret long war already unfolding in at least nineteen countries, under a classified order signed by Gen. David Petraeus last year. But he does quote Petraeus saying, “This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.” Even more disturbing is the strategic thinking behind the policy, as described by National Security Adviser James Jones in an interview with Woodward. The Jones “theory of the war” consists, first, of asserting that “the United States could not lose the war or be seen as losing the war,” a classic Machiavellian maxim. Second, according to Jones, the war is “certainly a clash of civilizations…a clash of religions…a clash of almost concepts of how to live.” If the US is not successful, NATO, the European Union and the United Nations “might be relegated to the dustbin of history.” (Last Friday Obama replaced Jones with Tom Donilon as national security adviser, an official more attuned to civilian domestic politics.)