Lately, the War on Terror hasn’t been going exactly the way the American intelligence community would like. The recently released National Intelligence Estimate, the consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies (not, however, the view of Cheney’s shadow government, which continues to pursue the completion of a mysterious device referred to only as “Project: Big Time“), places the United States in a “heightened threat environment.” Citing al-qaeda‘s apparent regeneration of its “Homeland attack capacity” utilizing a safe haven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and an ability to “leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-qaeda in iraq, it’s most visible and capable affiliate,” the NIE states that the group will keep trying to get their grubby little mitts on chemical and biological weapons, or nuclear material, and blow something up with them. So, you know. The usual.
Also – and this is new – Hizballah might attempt a Homeland attack if it “perceives the United States as posing a direct threat to the group, or Iran.” Personally, I think this one is a little bit cute – like the squeaky-voiced, Underoos-wearing pre-pubescent little brother sticking up for his big brother.
The unspoken gist of the NIE is that by creating
decapitation-happy nihilistic camel-jockeys al-qaeda in iraq, and diverting attention from the gathering clouds in the FATA, President Bush’s Iraq venture has ultimately strengthed al-qaeda‘s capacity to carry out a successful attack on U.S. soil. (For a fuller explanation of this reading of the document, read Frank Kaplan’s recent installment of his “War Stories” column in Slate.) That’s a lot of bad news for a 7-page government report. Be that as it may, I am nevertheless pleased to report this one piece of happy news, a bulwark of good cheer amidst a sea of negativity:
The Predator Drone still kicks ass.
That’s right. This little bastard
has got to be the coolest piece of hardware in the War on Terror, hands-down. Call it what you want – the MQ-1 Predator, a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance), a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle), I call the Predator Drone a 27-foot long, 1,100 pound, laser-guided Hellfire missile-equipped $40 million piece of red, white, and blue American ass-kickery.
First used in the Balkans in 1995, the Predator has since been used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Iraq. It’s racked up a pretty solid trophy room in that time. Credited to the MQ-1 are the deaths of abu hamza rabia, then the al-qaeda #3, who was killed (in his sleep!) in 2005 in Pakistan, bomb-maker and chemical weapons mastermind midhat mursi plus two other senior leaders in the ’05 Damadola airstrike, qaed senyan al-harthi (thought to be behind the Cole bombing) in Yemen in 2002, plus several near-misses of ayman al-zawahiri and osama bin laden. And the Predator isn’t too “nose in the air” to go after simple foot soldiers. According to the Air Force’s July 11 Airpower Summary, a Predator recently made terrorist mcnuggets out of a group of insurgents trying to plant roadside bombs in Iraq.
A-list kills aside, I think there’s a pretty simple reason why people in the military, as well as myself, are so enamored with the Predator Drone. Namely, it’s like something from Star Wars. No one in the armed forces leadership has ever came out and said it explicitly, but I think it’s pretty clear that the Star Wars movies inspire most of our advanced weapons technology (see Project: Big Time). The prime example, of course, would have to be Reagan’s anti-Soviet missile defense system, the Strategic Defense Initiative, which came to actually be called “Star Wars” and was a really great idea except that it cost about a trillion dollars and was stupid. Aside from the SDI, the military is working on pulse weapons, lasers, plus that thing that heats your skin like a microwave from 500 meters.
It’s video-game quality weapons like this, ultimately (plus an abiding belief in democracy, freedom, and blah blah blah), that make me confident we’re going to win the War on Terror. It’s only a matter of time before we roll out the BFG 9000, and when that day comes, it is my sincere belief that the Lincoln Memorial will begin shedding tears of patriotic joy.