Investigators examining Thursday's attacks, which left at least 49 dead and 700 injured, are pursuing a theory that the bombers were part of a homegrown sleeper cell, which may or may not have had foreign support for the bomb-making phase of the operation.
If that theory proves true, it would reflect the transformation of the terror threat around Europe. With much of Al Qaeda's hierarchy either captured or killed, a new, more nimble terrorist force has emerged on the continent, comprising mostly semiautonomous, Qaeda-inspired local groups that are believed to be operating in France, Switzerland, Spain, Italy and other countries. (Emphasis added.)
Got that? Almost four years of killing and capturing top Al Qaeda operatives and all we've done is made the organization "more nimble." This is where you're supposed to throw up your hands and surrender, because there is nothing we can do to succeed in the war on terrorists. That's the message the NYT wants to make sure you're getting: we can't win.
They might have observed that forcing the terrorists to be more nimble or die reduces their resources and makes it more difficult for them to do the sort of long range planning that toppled the WTC. They might have observed, as others have, that the London bombings, though executed successfully, were on a smaller scale than the bombings in Spain, suggesting a diminishing material capability.
To borrow an analogy from the reading I've been doing recently, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, lacking in supplies, rations and guns, was far more nimble than the Army of the Potomac. They traveled light, and were capable of lightning moves that kept the North off balance during the early part of the war, and slowed down their advance in the last year. If anyone had asked Lee at the time, though, I'm sure he would have traded some of his nimbleness for a steady supply of men, munitions and food. It's a commonplace observation that the South was out-produced, rather than out-fought. In order to win, the North simply had to keep up a steady war of attrition, and not lose its will to fight.
The latter was not an easy thing, because, just as we do now, the North had a class of men who were opposed to the war, and eager to make political hay of any bad news. Of course, bad news in that war meant 2,000 casualties per day for a solid month. Yet, the North stayed in the fight until it achieved victory, because it believed that victory had to be achieved.
It's true that with a bit more nimbleness the AoP could have ended the war a lot sooner, and saved a lot of lives in the long run. There are things that we could have done to end this war sooner also. For one thing, we could have wiped Fallujah off the map the first time it became a problem. We have tried too hard to minimize civilian casualties at the price of our soldiers' lives. Once again, we are falling into the trap of trying to fight a limited war.
Although the Army of the Potomac outnumbered the Army of Virginia by 20-50%, it was most often outnumbered on the battlefield, because excessive caution, confused logistics and miscarried orders prevented it from putting its full force into play. The excessive caution came from the political need to keep the people in Washington feeling safe. Even with 40,000 men manning the trenches around the city, McClellan felt compelled to move slowly and hold men in reserve, lest the Confederates break through and smash Washington.
This was because, early on, Lee and the Confederate army achieved a moral superiority in the minds of the generals and politicians of the North. When Grant came to fight in the east, he commented derisively to one panicky general, "Some of you always seem to think [General Lee] is going to turn a double somersault and land in our rear and on both flanks at the same time." This atmosphere of superstitious awe is what contributed to the caution of the Union generals. It was a combination of both fear and over-glorification of the enemy. It was carried in the papers, and it enflamed the minds of the politicians, and was forced by them upon the generals. Whatever you do, don't let Lee break through.
Our media is attempting to foist this same sense of caution upon us. They want us to fight a purely defensive war. They both magnify and minimize the threat posed by the terrorists: the threat becomes dire if we go on the offensive, and drops to minimal if we stay on the defensive. That is why they can write in all seriousness that chopping off the head of Al Qaeda has made it a more nimble organization. A chicken with its head cut off appears more nimble too, but that is not usually considered a net benefit to the chicken.
Al Qaeda will be destroyed, so long as we stay on the offensive. There is more that we could do to end the war sooner, but our victory is assured, so long as we maintain the will to fight. If we pull back and go on the defensive, we lose.