I don’t particularly like the idea of the United States acting like a global police force, killing or capturing anyone in the world they perceive to be a threat. Nor is it clear that capturing and killing Bin Laden would have prevented the events of September 11th. However, I am fascinated by the confusion that seems to surround Clinton-era efforts to Capture Bin Laden.

Mr. Clinton’s national security advisers told the commission that Mr. Clinton wanted Mr. bin Laden dead and legal advisers said that under the law, the killing of someone who posed an imminent threat to the country was an act of self-defense, not assassination.

But the commission reported that every C.I.A. official interviewed on the subject, including George J. Tenet, the director, said that they believed Mr. bin Laden could only be lawfully killed in one circumstance: if he died in an operation intended to capture him.

Keep that in mind when you read what Kevin Drum has to say about Dick Clark’s book:

… one of the recurring problems he brings up is that of trying to snatch suspected terrorists out of foreign countries. The problem, as Clarke tells it, is that while the CIA often didn’t have the resources for proposed missions, the Pentagon just flatly didn’t want to do them.

According to Clarke they used several strategies, including making plans so complicated that nobody would dare do them (sort of like professors I know who scare students away with 20 page course syllabi). Another strategy was to claim that the White House wouldn’t allow programs that the White House had clearly expressed an interest in …

Seems to me that the CIA was possibly playing the same game as the Pentagon here, blaming the White House in order to do things it simply didn’t want to do.

But, like I said, these kind of spy games don’t really strike me as a particularly effective way to deal with terrorism. They certainly haven’t worked for Israel. The last word on all of this is by the deceased Northern Alliance leader Massoud:

You Americans are crazy. You guys never change.”