September 25, 2001, Tuesday
WAS BIN LADEN WORKING WITH
LAURIE MYLROIE Laurie Mylroie, who was an adviser on
BY LAURIE MYLROIE
AS THE UNITED STATES PREPARES TO FIGHT OSAMA BIN LADEN, THE
ENEMY IN THIS NEW WAR AGAINST TERRORISM IS DISTURBINGLY ILL-DEFINED. ABOVE ALL,
A CRITICAL QUESTION HAS NOT BEEN ADDRESSED: WAS BIN LADEN ALONE RESPONSIBLE FOR
THE CARNAGE THAT
CCURRED ON SEPT. 11, OR WAS HE WORKING WITH AN
As Rafael Eitan, former head of
Yet the Bush administration has adopted the position that it is not necessary to address that issue now. It will take care of bin Laden in the first phase of this war and deal with the possibility of state involvement later.
That could be quite dangerous, however. This month's
terrible assault should have made clear that the
Authorities are jittery. Most ominously, one airplane hijacker and a number of unidentified Middle Eastern men visited airfields over the past months asking questions about crop dusters. The planes could be used to disseminate biological agents and produce casualties on a far greater scale than the horrific attacks we have already seen.
attack occurs, we blame it on bin Laden and his ilk?
Indeed, the war we are about to fight contradicts the
principles under which the
Military commanders have to make decisions on the basis of imperfect knowledge. To wait for certainty about a situation may be to invite defeat. That is also relevant to responding to the recent terrorism. A widespread misunderstanding exists about the FBI investigation and the evidence it will produce at this early stage of the inquiry.
Investigations into major terrorist attacks are invariably
long, tedious affairs. It took two years to determine that
Should we then do nothing?
A decade ago, we would have recognized that a state was behind the latest assaults, even if that state might work with a "group" to provide deniability. The dominant understanding then was that only states had the capability to carry out major terrorist attacks. Following any such attack, the experts would speculate about which terrorist state was most likely to have been responsible. That speculation was based on an
understanding of current politics, not on the FBI investigation, which does not produce results quickly enough to inform the conduct of national security affairs.
Yet this view was lost during the
If we could recover our understanding of a decade ago, we
would recognize that only a state had the ability to organize, plan, and
provide the intelligence and logistics to carry out the most devastating
terrorist assault in history. Then we would ask which state might have done it,
and only one would come to mind: