No Victory Laps

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

If there's any difference between the Bush/Cheney administration and the Obama administration when it comes to waging war, it's this: the Bush/Cheney folks were quite happy to tout their victories, even prematurely, if it could be used to score political points at home.  Remember "Mission Accomplished"?

There's no other way to look at this: the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's top military commander, is no small matter. It's a "major victory." Given that Baradar is the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the war began, and his role in leading the Taliban's military operations, this is a success that may very well pay considerable dividends for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

But did the Obama administration toot their own horns, even while Dick Cheney was blasting the Obama administration on national security over the weekend?  Nope.  They kept Baradar's capture under wraps for more than a week, while they garnered important intelligence information from him.  It might have been tempting for Biden and others to use the Baradar capture as evidence that Cheney doesn't know what he's talking about. But the White House Grown-Ups knew the ongoing efforts were more important than making Dick the Clown look foolish, and bolstering their own security creds.

As Juan Cole noted:

[T]hat Joe Biden and others kept the arrest secret, in order to allow further operations against Taliban leaders in Karachi, shows a discipline that Bush and Cheney never had. They were always happy to prematurely release details of ongoing investigations to get a political bump, even if it meant allowing terrorists to escape.