December 6th, 2009
08:18 AM ET

Dear President Obama #321: Where terror lives

Reporter's Note: President Obama’s new plan for Afghanistan is being chewed over on the Sunday political talk circuit. Me? I’m going to the Saints game…but first I’m posting my latest letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Near a little diner that we like called the Georgetown Grill, there is an intersection where I found twenty dollars in the street a couple of years ago. It was a rainy day, rush hour traffic was buzzing all around, and I was ambling through a crosswalk when I looked down and saw it lying flitter-flat, soaking wet on the pavement. Good luck, huh?

The problem is, ever since I have been unable to walk past that spot without reflexively looking around for errant Jacksons. It’s become a family joke. “Keep a sharp eye kids, this is where the money grows wild!”

I mention this because I’ve been thinking a good bit about your speech on Afghanistan last week, especially the part where you emphasized that this was a haven for the 9/11 attackers. No question about it. Those Al Qaeda types enjoyed some pretty choice conditions for a while there for plotting and planning their schemes, and probably they’d be pretty happy to take up residence again if the Taliban seized control and would have them.

But it seems to me that the real hallmark of the terrorist movement has been adaptability. We start protecting planes, they start attacking trains. We begin searching ships, and they grow more fond of cars. We use more drones, they hide more deeply in populations where drone attacks are more likely to cause civilian casualties. What I’m saying is, I wonder if we attach too much importance to the idea of where the attacks came from in the past, and if that might be blinding us…or at least drawing resources away…from the places from which they might attack in the future.

Certainly there are plenty of deeply troubled, vaguely lawless spots in the world where a variety of terror groups are active, and I’ll just bet dollars to doughnuts that the Al Qaeda crowd, even as they deride your plans for Afghanistan, are taking seriously the idea that they may have to relocate at least a bit more of their operations. But, like I said, it looks like there are plenty of places for them to go.

In short, I think if they launch another attack out of Afghanistan, it will be pure, in-your-face spite. But if they can’t, I have no doubt they will try to launch one elsewhere; taking advantage of our focus on their old headquarters.

Remember that one of the chief assessments of 9/11 was that we failed to see it coming because of a “failure of imagination.” While it is up to you and the Congress and the military leaders to hash out the rights and wrongs of pursuing your strategy in Afghanistan, I can tell you this hands down: It’s not very imaginative to think that our enemies will just try to do the same thing from the same place over and over again.

And if we imagine incorrectly, we could be in for a terrible surprise…finding that we’ve spent our money, our lives, and our efforts raging against what might effectively prove to be a diversionary front in a worldwide battle.

On other topics: Did you hear that story about the guy dressed as an elf making a bomb threat in a Georgia mall? No kidding…he was turned in by Santa. Talk about making it on the naughty list. Call if you can. And oh, btw, it’s my birthday! Go Saints!



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Sherri R

    My favorite part of the Obama administation is the Tom Foreman letters. Tom, as always, your letters are directly on target with the right blend of political savvy and humor when appropriate.

    Does seem that we may be lacking imagination in fighting terror. Focus on the same old thing and yet, expect different results...seems to me that it is the perfect combination for any terrorist group to have some degree of success.

    Tom, hope the wreath is now nicely hung in your windown and your shopping continues to progress. Keep the letters coming....seriously...it is my favorite part of the Obama presidency...guess that says something about my confidence in our leadership.

    December 6, 2009 at 2:47 pm |