Chuck de Caro’s War – Part 2

On Thursday, January 7, Barack Obama appeared before the cameras for the fourth time since December 25, trying to explain how his administration had so thoroughly bungled events leading up to the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day. 

Confronted with a terrorist act by a young Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Obama Administration mumbled, fumbled, misconstrued and misrepresented. 

 It’s not as if the Nigerian suddenly appeared out of nowhere.  He first came to the attention of British MI5 while a student at University College London.  During that period he had repeated contacts with radical Islamists who were themselves the subjects of wiretaps, email intercepts, and other forms of surveillance.  As a result, his British entry visa was revoked and he was under surveillance by British intelligence for several years prior to December 25, 2009.

Approximately four months ago the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted “chatter” among al Qaeda leaders in Yemen in which they discussed using a “Nigerian” in a planned terrorist attack against the U.S.  The intercepts were translated and disseminated to all of the appropriate intelligence services, including the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), months before Abdulmutallab boarded Flight 253 in Amsterdam.

Then, in November, Abdulmutallab’s father’s visited the U.S. embassy in Lagos, informing our State Department and the CIA that his son had been radicalized by Muslim fanatics and that he feared his son would commit an act of terror.  As a result, Abdulmutallab’s name was added to the NCTC’S Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) list… a list containing the names of some 550,000 individuals… but no one in the U.S. intelligence community was able to connect the necessary dots.  

As the Times of London editorialized, “One would have thought that a warning about Abdulmutallab’s possible involvement with terrorists, by his own father no less, a former top official in a government friendly to Washington, numerous NSA intercepts, a CIA dossier and MI5 reports would have raised at least one red flag!” 

But that’s not what happened.  Abdulmutallab paid $2,800 in cash (red flag) for a one-way ticket (red flag), boarded planes in Lagos and Amsterdam with no checked baggage (red flag), and traveled to Detroit under a 2-year entry visa that should have been cancelled the moment his name appeared on a terrorist watch list (red flag).  As the London Examiner described it, “In the suspect’s case, there were so many red flags flying you’d have thought the Red Army was parading through Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport!” 

As news of the foiled bombing spread around the globe, Obama and his team sprang into action.  Obama took time out from a round of golf in Hawaii to make a phone call to his national security advisors: Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Counterterrorism Advisor John Brennan, Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and NCTC Director Michael E. Leiter… who also was upset to be interrupted in the midst of a round of golf.

Napolitano went before the TV cameras in a hastily-called press conference to announce that “the system worked.”  It was the most inane statement by a public official since Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) described his colleague, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), a former Grand Kleagle of the KKK, as a man who would have been “a great senator at any moment” in our nation’s history.  However, when asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley how that could be possible when Abdulmutallab was able to smuggle an explosive compound onto the aircraft, Napolitano responded, “We’re asking the same questions.”  She went on to say that there was no suggestion that Abdulmutallab was “improperly screened.”

But it was left to Obama himself to prove how totally clueless he and his top aides really are.  Waiting a full 72 hours to publicly comment on what was only the most recent terrorist attack of his time in the Oval Office, Obama described Abdulmutallab as an “isolated extremist” and the event itself as an “attempted terrorist attack” in  which a passenger “allegedly” tried to ignite an explosive device aboard an aircraft.

Obama’s fellow Chicagoan, Al Capone, once said, “You can go a long way with a smile.  You can go a lot farther with a smile and a gun.”  In prosecuting the War on Terror, it appears to be the one lesson that Obama has learned.  It is the basis for his approach to al Qaeda but it doesn’t go nearly far enough, as evidenced by his fourth public clarification on Thursday, January 7. 

In announcing a series of four steps his administration would be taking to prevent any similar attacks from occurring, he said, “In our ever-changing world, America’s first line of defense is timely, accurate, intelligence that is shared, integrated, analyzed, and acted upon swiftly and effectively.”  He said not a word about going on the offensive against al Qaeda.  Unlike James Monroe, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, Obama appears incapable of drawing a line in the sand… of saying “this far, and no farther!”  Obama appears wedded to the concept of winning by playing only defense, hoping he can score enough points to win victory.  It doesn’t work that way on the football field and it certainly doesn’t work that way in war.   

Considering the nature of our enemy, it becomes immediately evident that the United States, even with all of our NATO allies and the Israelis behind us, cannot win a war of attrition against the forces of radical Islam.  We cannot win a war in which they kill 3,000 of our people, we take a year to kill 30,000 of their people, they kill another 3,000 of us, we take a year or two to kill another 30,000 of them, etc., etc., etc.  The Muslim Umma now numbers somewhere near 1.6 billion people and they have a birth rate that far exceeds that of any Western nation. 

So we cannot win a war of attrition against Islam, nor is it even remotely conceivable that the United States would ever consider a war of annihilation, using unremitting nuclear carpet bombing as an alternative… but we MUST win this war.  So how do we approach the problem?

In a recent column, titled “Chuck de Caros’s War,” we discussed the benefits of Information Warfare (SOFTWAR), the subject matter of de Caro’s lectures at the National Defense University, the National Defense Intelligence College, the Naval Post Graduate School, the Air War College, the Army Command and General Staff School, and many other Department of Defense institutions.

De Caro defines SOFTWAR as “the hostile use of global television to shape another society’s will by changing its view of reality.” (See  But is it possible that Obama, inexperienced and naïve as he is, has the ability to comprehend what it might take to defeat al Qaeda by “changing its view of reality?”  And if he is capable of understanding the concept, is he willing and able to undertake the effort? 

As de Caro points out in his lectures, “Simply killing or capturing radical Islamic terrorists as a way of winning a globally distributed guerilla war is much like the inept mechanic who reacts to an engine warning light by cutting the wires to the light.  The problem still exists and it’s in the ENGINE! The engine in the case under consideration here is the widely dispersed al Qaeda body politic which is hiding like a cancer in the vastly larger Umma, which, in turn, is composed of all the believers of Islam.

“Thus while there are those among us who would happily don a ski mask and shoulder an MP-5SD3 (silenced submachine gun) to do some serious counter-terrorism, what is really needed is a major program of anti-terrorism to stem the flow of new al Qaeda recruits from the Umma.  To do that we will need a huge, well funded and coordinated campaign of strategic communications, public diplomacy, and information warfare in all its forms.”

“Right now,” says de Caro, “the United States has five major organizations doing information projection around the globe: the State Department, the Department of Defense, the White House, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the CIA.  But all are grossly under-funded for an operation of the kind needed to confront al Qaeda, and they are grossly undermanned, having few, if any, experts who know how to create a global television and/or Internet campaign over a generation or two.  Worst of all, there is no coherent strategy or leadership.  Period!”

Given the poor quality and the inexperience of Obama’s closest advisors, is there one among them who understands that going on the offensive against al Qaeda involves, first of all, putting limits on its size and growth?  Or that, in order to undertake such a critical offensive, we must become more adept at the use of tools such as global television, motion pictures, and the Internet than are the leaders of al Qaeda and the Islamist jihad?

The goal of radical Islam, led by al Qaeda, is a worldwide Caliphate in which every non-Muslim will have three choices: 1) Convert to Islam, 2) Refuse to convert but pay tribute, or 3) Be killed.  Breaking that trilogy of horrors will require a lot of effort. 

As de Caro explains, “Once you understand that a monothesistic Islamic world is al Qaeda’s ultimate goal, the first thing to attack is their basic strategy for achieving that goal.  That strategy is a hybrid product of warfare and marketing which uses high explosives in the same way that Hollywood uses publicity stunts and celebrity tours. 

“Thus, al Qaeda uses kinetic weapons (heat, blast, and fragmentation) to create information.  And once an event has been created, they use the most powerful inventions of the information age, instantaneous global television and the Internet, to justify their righteousness to the Umma, to recruit new jihadists, and to spread fear and terror throughout the non-Muslim world.  The great irony is that we created global television and the Internet and that our enemy, al Qaeda, now uses it effectively against us. 

As de Caro explains, “Our military uses all manner of information to support the accuracy and effectiveness of its weapons.  Al Qaeda, on the other hand, uses its comparatively crude weapons… suicide bombers, IED’s, etc… to create the information necessary to propel its ideals.  Unless the five aforementioned agencies of government grasp this fundamental truth, we cannot win.  We may not lose, but we will spend hundreds of billions of dollars and we will not emerge as a clear victor.”

“The fact that Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, the suicide bomber who murdered the CIA and Blackwater personnel in Khost, had a well-lighted, well-scripted, and ready-to-distribute video in the can before he set off his bomb, demonstrates the al Qaeda strategy.”

George W. Bush understood the gravity of the situation, but one wonders whether Obama has the intellect to share that understanding.  He is given credit for having surrounded himself with a great many bright people.  However, it is doubtful that Obama himself, Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Valerie Jarrett, and all thirty-five or forty White House czars, taken together, could formulate a single cogent proposal for a SOFTWAR campaign against al Qaeda. 

During World War II, FDR had his Bill Donovan, and Donovan had radio and television pioneer David Sarnoff and movie producers Frank Capra, and John Ford.  So the question arises, does Obama have a modern day Bill Donovan at his disposal, and does he understand the problem well enough to assemble a team capable of exploiting the unique capabilities of television and the Internet as the principal weapons in a global SOFTWAR offensive?  Time is running short.

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