I'll admit I'm a bit surprised by early reports coming from the 9/11 Commission saying America should have acted militarily against Al Qaeda sooner than we did. I've referred to the panel as a "political sideshow", but perhaps I was wrong.

WASHINGTON — The Clinton and Bush administrations secretly considered but ultimately rejected a range of military actions against Usama bin Laden (search) and his Al Qaeda (search) network prior to Sept. 11, 2001.

A preliminary report by the Sept. 11 commission found that while the U.S. government pursued diplomacy and sought a better military plan, bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders eluded capture. A recurring theme in the report is that U.S. leaders believed they lacked "actionable intelligence" — timely and reliable information — on bin Laden's whereabouts.

It sounds like we had a few potential chances to hit OBL with cruise missiles or commandos that we didn't take because we didn't want to risk failure and/or killing civilians.

I'm now much more interested to hear what the panel comes up with as its work progresses.

Here's a key passage from today's article:

Tuesday's report also said that both the Clinton and Bush administrations engaged in lengthy, ultimately fruitless diplomatic efforts instead of military action to try to get bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Both Rumsfeld and Powell expressed doubt that the administration, which took office less than eight months before the attacks, could have stopped them through military force.

Sometimes diplomacy just isn't the way to go, as much as we might prefer a peaceful solution. Since planning for 9/11 began in 1998 and the hijackers were all in the US by the time President Bush took office (right? or maybe two weren't yet) it's not likely that military action so late in the game could have made a difference. But if President Clinton had walked rather than talked in the 1990s maybe 9/11 could have been avoided. Hindsight is always 20/20, but this doesn't seem like rocket science.



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