You’ve never heard about the “Cambodian Syndrome?” Neither have I. Pity. American policy makers have been suffering from it until recently when in an operation which has the hallmark of Israeli ones, the US army entered an Al Qaeda base in Syria in order to capture a high value Al Qaeda target. Bill Roggio has the details.
US special operations hunter-killer teams entered Syria in an attempt to capture Abu Ghadiya, a senior al Qaeda leader who has been in charge of the Syrian network since 2005. US intelligence analysts identified Ghadiya as the leader of the Syrian network, The Washington Post reported in July. Ghadiya was identified as a “major target” by the US military in February 2008.
The US claims that Abu Ghadiya was killed. If so, the operation has been a partial failure. Captured high value targets are worth much more live than dead. Nor can I disagree with the WSJ editors that strategically, if not tactically, it has taken place 5 years too late. Consider -
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point later conducted a detailed study of the “Sinjar Records,” which was published in July 2008. The study showed that al Qaeda had an extensive network in Syria and the Syrian government has allowed their activities to continue.”The Syrian government has willingly ignored, and possibly abetted, foreign fighters headed to Iraq,” the study concluded. “Concerned about possible military action against the Syrian regime, it opted to support insurgents and terrorists wreaking havoc in Iraq.”
Al Qaeda established multiple networks of “Syrian Coordinators” that “work primarily with fighters from specific countries, and likely with specific Coordinators in fighters’ home countries,” according to the study. The Syrian city of Dayr al Zawr serves as a vital logistical hub and a transit point for al Qaeda recruits and operatives heading to Iraq.
A vast majority of the fighters entering Iraq from Sinjar served as suicide bombers. The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point estimated that 75 percent conducted suicide attacks inside Iraq.
The Cambodia syndrome - According to Charles Krauthammer, the Bush administration remembered the violent domestic response to the Cambodian incursion during the Nixon administration and feared a repeat Campus performance.
In other words, they not only fought the last war but they failed to learn the right lesson. It was a failure to fight the war with all the available means that turned Americans against the Vietnam War not the much belated incursion into Cambodia per se.
The same ended up happening with the war in Iraq. It is a war the US may win in the end but at such an unnecessarily high cost in lives and treasure as to convince most Americans that it had not been worth undertaking.