From the top there’s only one way forward: down

Mature cosmological systems recognize the cyclical nature of change: that growth is followed by decay and that power gathered is later dispersed. These are not ideas readily embraced by an imperial power and thus America has driven itself into a trap which it cannot back out of without undermining its own image of preeminence.

The trap that a great power falls into as soon as it makes the mistake of using blunt force against an asymmetrical threat is that its opponent has the exclusive ability to make tactical retreats with its pride in tact.

For a decade now, America has been fighting adversaries who operate unwaveringly according to the Maoist principles of guerrilla warfare: “The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.”

The war on terrorism, whose sole purpose was to put on display the preeminence of American power, has instead in every possible way demonstrated the limits of American power and yet even now the prospect of defeat cannot be entertained.

The Obama administration, desperate to find a way out of Afghanistan, refuses to admit that it is developing an exit strategy. The plan to end combat missions by 2014 is not an exit strategy; it is a “transition strategy” US envoy Richard Holbrooke claims.

And as if to guard against the risk that Obama might end a second term (if he gets one) with the United States no longer at war, he seems intent on starting a war of his very own — a war whose beginning echoes America’s entry into Vietnam.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The U.S. is preparing for an expanded campaign against al Qaeda in Yemen, mobilizing military and intelligence resources to enable Yemeni and American strikes and drawing up a longer-term proposal to establish Yemeni bases in remote areas where militants operate.

The developments are part of a U.S. scramble to step up the hunt for members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist organization behind a recent failed attempt to blow up two planes over the U.S. using bombs hidden in cargo.

Limited U.S. intelligence experience in Yemen has created “a window of vulnerability” that the U.S. government is “working fast to address,” a senior Obama administration official said.

For now, the U.S. gets much of its on-the-ground intelligence from a growing partnership with Saudi Arabia, which shares a border with Yemen and has a fruitful informant network in Yemen’s tribal areas.

In the rush to build up capabilities, the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies are moving in equipment and personnel from other areas, and over the past year have expanded the size of teams in the U.S. analyzing intelligence on AQAP. The emphasis now is on expanding the number of intelligence operatives and analysts in the field.

There is a debate within the Obama administration and Pentagon about how best to ramp up the fight against AQAP, the Yemen-based terrorist group. Supporters of establishing forward operating bases for Yemeni forces say they would help the weak Yemeni government expand its control and create an opportunity to get a small number of American Special Operations trainers and advisers out of the capital region and into the field.

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