I just finished reading this particular Weekly Standard article ("Showstoppers", by Richard H. Shultz Jr.) on why Special Forces were not used before 9/11, and it's an eye-opener. How much of one? Let me put it this way: I'm going to be surprised if the official 9/11 report ends up being half as useful.
The central thesis of this article is simple: the Clinton administration was repeatedly stymied by attitudes and policies from both bureaucracies (civilian and military) that made it impossible for any meaningful counterterrrorism activities to take place in the realm of Special Forces. Shultz breaks down the problems into 9 basic categories:
(UPDATE: On behalf of all of us here at Obsidian Wings I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome all those visiting from Instapundit. I hope that you'll find the site interesting, entertaining and informative. Canape?)
1. Terrorism as Crime*
2. Not a Clear and Present Danger or War
3. The Somalia Syndrome
4. No Legal Authority
5. Risk Aversion
6. Pariah Cowboys
7. Intimidation of Civilians
8. Big Footprints
9. No Actionable Intelligence
- and discusses them at length. Generally speaking, it was a case of policy statements being subtly (or not so subtly) degraded downward the farther one got down the decision chain, coupled with a tendency of the entrenched staff of various government agencies to push back at the civilian/political appointees. Standard Dizzy City / REMF horseapples, in other words. Naturally, unnamed sources outnumbered named ones, which will cause some people to discount the article. I think that it would be unwise to do that in this particular case, but that's just me.
I really do suggest that you read this one, regardless of your opinions on the past three years. It's a bit complicated to assess, politically speaking - ideologically, it mostly favors a idealized Rumsfeldian approach to dealing with the military - but there are things more important than politics, and this is one of them.
This looks like it's going to be an Instapundit update special, btw.
*I was personally not aware that this policy started up more or less at the end of Reagan's term in office. I wonder how many other people were likewise unaware of this until now. Nobody fib, do you hear?