Clarke reveals, Condoleezza responds

Condoleezza Rice, the US national security advisor defends the Bush adminstration’s record on the response to al Qaeda, following Richard Clarke’s revelations on CBS 60 Minutes, and his soon-to-be released book.

Strangely she mentions arming the Predator drone and increasing funding for the Northern Alliance as two steps the Bush national security team took to specifically address al Qaeda and their Taliban protectors, totally ignoring the Pakistan angle. But she goes on to write

Our plan called for military options to attack al Qaeda and Taliban leadership, ground forces and other targets — taking the fight to the enemy where he lived. It focused on the crucial link between al Qaeda and the Taliban. We would attempt to compel the Taliban to stop giving al Qaeda sanctuary — and if it refused, we would have sufficient military options to remove the Taliban regime. The strategy focused on the key role of Pakistan in this effort and the need to get Pakistan to drop its support of the Taliban. This became the first major foreign-policy strategy document of the Bush administration — not Iraq, not the ABM Treaty, but eliminating al Qaeda.[Washington Post]

That may be so post 9/11. But before that day, it was very difficult to imagine that the US would have taken any interest in putting pressure on Musharraf to snuff out his support for the Taliban, much less drop sponsorship of terrorism elsewhere in the world.

The Bush administration has successfully got Musharraf to (at least publicly) drop his support for the Taliban and other jehadi outfits. The US has succeeded in destroying much of al Qaeda’s hard infrastructure in Afghanistan and many of its sources of funding. I still think the United States should have been unblinkered in its approach – specifically in considering alternatives to the ‘Musharraf is our only hope’ theory – but it does deserve credit for having decimated al Qaeda.

Still, it would require giving the Bush team a generous benefit of doubt to believe that they had the whole thing figured out before the 9/11 attacks happened. Cheney and Rumsfeld are guilty of linking al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, something which is obviously nonsensical to the rest of the world. The latter is a much more serious charge, which even Condoleezza Rice would be hard pressed to defend.

Related Links: Discussion on this issue at Dan Drezner, MaxSpeak and Unmedia. A transcript of the CBS 60 Minutes interview.