A World of Unintended Consequences

Leading the way today, the New York Times uses all of their editorial space to ask what’s going on in Afghanistan. The editorial questions President Obama’s supposed “straight talk” about the war—think Wikileaks, Marja, Karzai, forces training, insurgent reconciliation, Pakistan’s role and the withdrawal deadline. More damning still, it notes that the Wikileaks paper trail ends in 2009, which—when combined with the “cacophony” of “ambiguity” since Obama’s December troop surge announcement—has only added to the public’s “anxiety and confusion.” (This post by Paul Pillar gives a more in-depth dissection of the piece.)

And on the broader war-on-terror front, former Justice Department officials David Rivkin Jr. and Lee Casey issue a warning in the Wall Street Journal about an ACLU legal challenge to the president’s authority to target and kill al-Qaeda operatives who are American citizens. They are talking specifically about Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen believed to be in Yemen and linked to the Christmas Day bombing and the Ft. Hood massacre last November. Rivkin and Casey argue American members of al-Qaeda are enemy combatants just like the rest of the terrorist group and therefore not deserving of any “special immunity.”

On the same page, Hoover Institution fellow Josef Joffe has another take on how laws created to fight terrorists can be counterproductive. The case of a recently closed mosque in Germany connected to the 9/11 attacks is a great example. The mosque was a good source of intelligence when it was open. Now it looks like prosecutors won’t be able to get any convictions for fear of compromising government sources (“Shades of Guantanamo,” Joffe writes). So no more new intel, and the bad guys get set free, too. The messy world of combating al-Qaeda, indeed.

The Washington Post’s editorial board weighs in to rap the knuckles of one Hugo Chávez for his refusal to allow the new U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, Larry Leon Palmer, to take up his post. The editorial also praises the State Department for sticking by its man (after some brief criticism for the administration and the UN Security Council for their failure to recognize “what amounts to” Chávez’s “smoking gun” on state-sponsored terror).