Making Excuses, Repeating Mistakes

By: Brooks A. Mick

The cable news programs and other news sources are rampant with speculation about the failure to identify Nidal Malik Hasan, to be known from henceforth as “Hasan the Assassin,” as a danger to troops. The FBI in particular seems to have joined the “Excuse of the Minute Club.” First there was nothing known about him, then he had no contacts to terrorists, then he did e-mail an imam known to have links to al Qaeda, then that he was just a small fry and they had much more dangerous people to investigate.

As more information becomes available, much of it from the British press, not from our home-grown fearless investigative reporters (that’s a joke, folks, so go ahead and laugh), the earlier excuses are dropping like soldiers in a Readiness Processing Center. We’ll soon know how much the FBI knew, how much the US Army knew, and why they felt constrained to allow this psychiatrist who was openly discussing treason and his religious basis for it to continue to practice around our soldiers.

It is the last excuse, that he was just small fry, which I wish to address.

The police used to operate on such a theory, ignoring small crimes in order to focus on large ones. For example, they would ignore graffiti-spraying and window-breaking in order to concentrate on drug dealing and bank robberies. But it was discovered that ignoring small, annoying crimes tended to encourage bigger crimes, and that when police began cracking down on the breaking of windows and the spraying of graffiti, larger crimes were materially dampened down also.

In 1968, I bypassed the chain of command in Vietnam and wrote directly to President Lyndon Johnson with my observation that the strategy of General Westmoreland was losing the war. We couldn’t huddle in large bases, launch major search-and-destroy missions, and then withdraw to our bases and allow the enemy the run of the countryside between our excursions. Johnson paid no mind to a lowly captain, but I still have the reply letter I received wherein he thanked me for my service to the country. It’s framed and sits on a bookshelf as a memorial to the obduracy and arrogance and detachment of a Commander in Chief.

In Iraq, we were concentrating on killing and capturing the big fry, al Qaeda leaders and militia leaders and others, and we were losing ground. When The Surge was undertaken by George W. Bush, against most advice, and when the day-to-day security of the general population became a major goal, the tide of the war turned and we have made great headway since in Iraq. Bush listened to a general who had actual ground experience in counterinsurgency, and it paid off.

I propose that the same principle holds true with the infiltration of Muslim jihadists into American society. If we focus only on large cells, large groups planning major attacks, the “small fry” like Major Nidal Malik Hasan will pose serious danger through multiple small-scale attacks and will eventually become support for the larger groups. In order to win the battle against the home-grown terrorists, we have to begin identifying the single radicals and eliminating the danger they pose if we are to win the battle against the big fry like al Qaeda. In Afghanistan, we will have to provide an overall, stable, secure environment for the average Afghan citizen before we can hope to eliminate the Taliban as a threat.

In other words, we have to start engaging the terrorist equivalent of graffiti and broken windows before we will be able to conquer those planning massive attacks.

So far it appears Obama is more in the mold of a Lyndon Johnson or Jimmy Carter, trusting in the judgment of left-wing ideologues rather than the judgment of commanders in the field. Those who do not learn from history blah blah blah blah…

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