Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Enemy At The Gates

On Feb 10, 1970, three terrorists attacked a bus at the Munich Airport armed with guns and grenades. One passenger was killed and 11 were injured. The Action Organization for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine claimed responsibility for the attack. If one is so inclined, a cursory search of the State Department's website lists a seemingly endless array of terrorist attacks committed by radical Jihadists going back close to 40 years.

In February of 1993, radical Islam reared it's ugly head on American soil with the first bombing of the World Trade Center, leaving 6 dead and over 1000 injured. The Federal Government lists over 25 separate and active Islamic terrorist organizations operating around the world, yet despite the best efforts of law enforcement and vigilant prosecutions, bombings, kidnappings and high-jackings persist. Prior to Sept 11th 2001, many warned that a sort of global tunnel vision had emerged, which viewed terrorism, wherever it occurred, as just another manifestation of crime, to be dealt with by the auspices of the civil justice system as various countries saw fit.

The temptation to view terrorism as a matter of domestic law enforcement is a direct result of the quick and easy prosecutions that are obtained through civilian trials. The proponents of this worldview are fond of using past convictions as a shining example of how the criminal justice system provides swift and exacting results. It is indeed tempting, but also extremely misleading. If we are to measure success in terms of incarceration, then many a Federal prosecutor can rightly claim that terrorism is best left to civilian jurisprudence.

The most glaring examples are the chest puffing by Attorney General Eric Holder over the current trials of the 9/11 conspirators in New York, and the Clinton administration's prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers. But what is the goal of national security? As Andrew McCarthy asked on NRO's The Corner, "...does litigation success equals national security success"? If Friday's foiled attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on it's descent into Detroit is any indication , it's clear a return to the previous strategy is not working.

Following calls for her resignation after boasting that the administration's Clinton style anti-terrorism strategy prevented the attempted bombing, HHS Secretary Janet Napolitano finally conceded that the country's security structure had "failed completely". Even Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs has resurrected the administration's once forbidden phrase "war on terror". In fact, the administration not only bungled the lead-up, they are horribly bungling the aftermath with mixed signals, conflicting statements, and ever-morphing euphemisms.

For close to eight years, under the vigilant policies of the Bush administration, America remained safe. We were at war, and the foot soldiers hell bent on destroying us were treated as enemy combatants. But as the years passed, images of the two majestic towers collapsing to the ground in a plume of fire and smoke became a distant memory, and the public grew apathetic. Liberals were hell bent on allowing captured terrorists to be treated as common criminals at the dock, with the full rights and privileges of the American justice system, and a young Senator from Illinois with eyes on the Oval Office was willing to oblige. This return to a failed 40 year old policy led to a day that almost cost the lives of close to 260 Americans. President Obama believes that because Abdulmutallab's improvised exploding underpants malfunctioned, this is a no harm no foul situation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The administration seems to be in a national defense free-fall, and - as McCarthy laments - sorely missing the point:

"Here, no thanks to the government, the plane was not destroyed, and we won't get to the bottom of the larger conspiracy (enabling the likes of Napolitano to say there's no indication of a larger plot — much less one launched by an international jihadist enterprise) because the guy got to lawyer up rather than be treated like a combatant and subjected to lengthy interrogation. But the terrorist will be convicted at trial (this "case" tees up like a slam-dunk), so the administration will put it in the books as a success . It is a dangerously absurd viewpoint, but it was clear during the campaign that it was Obama's viewpoint. The American people — only seven years after 9/11 — elected him anyway. As we learn more painfully everyday, elections matter."

Umar bragged to law enforcement officials shortly after his capture that more attacks were planned and on the way, but he has now, as McCarthy points out, "lawyered up", and Homeland Security is desperately trying to resurrect the policies of the Bush administration that had managed to keep Americans safe for the better part of a decade. But have we really gotten the message, and for that matter, what is the message? I think Daniel Pipes put it best when he sagely warned;

"Diplomacy in general does not resolve conflicts, ... Wars end not due to peace processes, but due to one side giving up. Ultimately, there is no compromise. Westerners will either retain their civilization, including the right to insult and blaspheme, or not.”



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