Al-Qaida is becoming the weapons of mass destruction of the Obama administration's war in Afghanistan. Or, to be more precise, it is a reverse WMD. For the George W. Bush administration, the likely presence of WMD in Iraq was a major justification for going to war. For Vice President Joe Biden and some senior Obama White House staff members (we do not know the position of the president yet), the alleged weakness and ineffectiveness of al-Qaida is sufficient justification for ending our major ground troop presence in Afghanistan.
Moreover, just like the discussion of WMD in 2002 and 2003, the current discussion of al-Qaida's capacities in Afghanistan is being carried out with cherry-picked intelligence. And just as Bush's opponents suspected he cited WMD merely as an excuse for starting a war he already had made up his mind to start for different reasons, so it would appear that the assertion of al-Qaida's weakness by the White House might be merely an excuse to justify the political decision that already has been made (by some) to get out of Afghanistan.
In September, the president publicly expressed doubts concerning the wisdom of his own strategy. Then Gen. Stanley McChrystal's war plans were leaked to The Washington Post's Bob Woodward. The Post then editorialized harshly against the president's indecision and reminded him of his recent words concerning Afghanistan's being a necessary war.
The White House then informally released the Biden plan, which would draw down ground troops and go after al-Qaida primarily by air. Gen. McChrystal publicly repudiated the efficacy of the Biden plan and, while on CBS' "60 Minutes," mentioned he had talked with the president only once since taking command -- and then by phone.
Then, on Sept. 30, the Post ran a spectacular front-page, above-the-fold lead story, headlined "Success Against al-Qaeda Cited: Infiltration of Network Is a Factor as Administration Debates Afghanistan Policy." This article, leaked to the Post by "senior U.S. officials, who spoke about intelligence matters on the condition of anonymity," expressly argued that al-Qaida had been penetrated recently by our spies and other intelligence and can be hit by drones and that therefore, such "an improved counterterrorism effort" is "evidence that Obama's principal objective -- destroying al-Qaeda -- can be achieved without an expanded troop presence."
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.