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Topic: Thomas Joscelyn

The Enemy We Dare Not Name

Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn explain the Obama administration’s now-predictable rhetoric, which runs through the series of jihadist attacks that have occurred on its watch – Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bombing attempt, and the Times Square bombing attempt — or rather, the rhetoric that is conspicuously absent:

So, three attacks in six months, by attackers with connections to the global jihadist network—connections that administration officials have gone out of their way to diminish. The most striking thing about all three attacks is not what we heard, but what we haven’t heard. There has been very little talk about the global war that the Obama administration sometimes acknowledges we are fighting and virtually nothing about what motivates our enemy: radical Islam.

This is no accident. Janet Napolitano never used the word “terrorism” in her first appearance before Congress as secretary-designate of Homeland Security on January 15, 2009. Shortly thereafter, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration had dropped the phrase “Global War on Terror” in favor of “Overseas Contingency Operations.” And just last month, we learned that the White House’s forthcoming National Security Strategy would not use religious words such as “jihad” and “Islamic extremism.” When asked why she did not utter the word “terrorism”  in the course of her testimony, Napolitano explained that she used “man-caused disaster” instead to avoid “the politics of fear.”

It is worth asking why. One gets the impression that somehow the administration thinks it’s a problem to engage in a multi-pronged outreach to the “Muslim World” (we can question the utility of that, but they imagine it’s helpful) and to identify the actual enemy — which is a segment of that world, namely radical jihadists who just so happen to terrorize and kill a great many other Muslims. It is perhaps out of condescension that the Obama brain trust thinks the distinction will be lost on the worldwide Muslim audience. Therefore, we can’t use the “I” word or the “M” word except in praise.

Identifying the enemy by name also makes it difficult to adhere to the criminal-justice model that the Obama team and its lefty lawyers plainly adore. If there is a network of ideologically motivated, non-state terrorists, then are public trials and dispensing Miranda rights really the way to go? Well, if it’s just a “lone wolf,” perhaps the ordinary justice system can be employed. Or better yet, if it is a mentally unstable patient (don’t forget the liberal explanations du jour: Major Hasan was suffering pre-deployment stress syndrome, and Shahzad was a foreclosure victim), we can chalk this up to American war-fighting or capitalism.

The result is the use, or attempted use, of measures ill-suited to the war against Islamic fanatics — like giving the 9/11 ringleader a public trial or automatically Mirandizing bombers. And it prevents institutions, including the Army, from clueing into the telltale signs of Islamic radicalization that might pose a threat. Moreover, it conveys to the enemy and to our allies (including many in the “Muslim World”) that we are confused, afraid, and unfocused. If this is a war against American civilization, our failure to explain and defend ourselves and to identify the threat only emboldens the radical jihadists. Obama’s inability to identify the enemy is at bottom a refusal to defend American civilization, which, itself, is under attack. That may be beyond the reach of the president, who never tires of apologizing for America.

Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn explain the Obama administration’s now-predictable rhetoric, which runs through the series of jihadist attacks that have occurred on its watch – Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bombing attempt, and the Times Square bombing attempt — or rather, the rhetoric that is conspicuously absent:

So, three attacks in six months, by attackers with connections to the global jihadist network—connections that administration officials have gone out of their way to diminish. The most striking thing about all three attacks is not what we heard, but what we haven’t heard. There has been very little talk about the global war that the Obama administration sometimes acknowledges we are fighting and virtually nothing about what motivates our enemy: radical Islam.

This is no accident. Janet Napolitano never used the word “terrorism” in her first appearance before Congress as secretary-designate of Homeland Security on January 15, 2009. Shortly thereafter, the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration had dropped the phrase “Global War on Terror” in favor of “Overseas Contingency Operations.” And just last month, we learned that the White House’s forthcoming National Security Strategy would not use religious words such as “jihad” and “Islamic extremism.” When asked why she did not utter the word “terrorism”  in the course of her testimony, Napolitano explained that she used “man-caused disaster” instead to avoid “the politics of fear.”

It is worth asking why. One gets the impression that somehow the administration thinks it’s a problem to engage in a multi-pronged outreach to the “Muslim World” (we can question the utility of that, but they imagine it’s helpful) and to identify the actual enemy — which is a segment of that world, namely radical jihadists who just so happen to terrorize and kill a great many other Muslims. It is perhaps out of condescension that the Obama brain trust thinks the distinction will be lost on the worldwide Muslim audience. Therefore, we can’t use the “I” word or the “M” word except in praise.

Identifying the enemy by name also makes it difficult to adhere to the criminal-justice model that the Obama team and its lefty lawyers plainly adore. If there is a network of ideologically motivated, non-state terrorists, then are public trials and dispensing Miranda rights really the way to go? Well, if it’s just a “lone wolf,” perhaps the ordinary justice system can be employed. Or better yet, if it is a mentally unstable patient (don’t forget the liberal explanations du jour: Major Hasan was suffering pre-deployment stress syndrome, and Shahzad was a foreclosure victim), we can chalk this up to American war-fighting or capitalism.

The result is the use, or attempted use, of measures ill-suited to the war against Islamic fanatics — like giving the 9/11 ringleader a public trial or automatically Mirandizing bombers. And it prevents institutions, including the Army, from clueing into the telltale signs of Islamic radicalization that might pose a threat. Moreover, it conveys to the enemy and to our allies (including many in the “Muslim World”) that we are confused, afraid, and unfocused. If this is a war against American civilization, our failure to explain and defend ourselves and to identify the threat only emboldens the radical jihadists. Obama’s inability to identify the enemy is at bottom a refusal to defend American civilization, which, itself, is under attack. That may be beyond the reach of the president, who never tires of apologizing for America.

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Downplay Danger and Willful Ignorance

Like many of us, Stephen Hayes is struggling to understand how it could be that the president could have seemed so misinformed (claiming that the bombing was the work of an “isolated extremist”) and so disengaged in the days following the Christmas Day bombing attack. He writes:

How is it possible that the president of the United States could get a central fact about an attempted terrorist attack—arguably, the central fact—dead wrong in his first public statement, three days after the attack?

President Obama and White House staffers have spent the subsequent two weeks pointing fingers at the intelligence community, detailing the many failures of the bureaucracy, and promising accountability. Given what we know about those failures, that’s appropriate. But in his January 7 statement announcing the results of the review he had ordered, the president boldly declared that the buck stops with him. Strong rhetoric. So what does it mean in practice? The Obama administration’s lack of seriousness on counterterrorism before the attack seems to have been rivaled only by its incompetence afterwards.

As Hayes points out, part of the explanation is that this was a concerted effort, mimicked by Janet Napolitano and Robert Gibbs, to downplay the incident. Nothing much here. No one died. Our decisions to reject the Bush anti-terror policies are working fine. No need for alarm. Can we get back to health care?

After all, the administration had gotten away with this same blasé routine following the Fort Hood incident. The liberal pundits howled over  anyone inferring a religious motivation (they preferred some psychological diagnosis rather than the ample evidence that Major Hassan did this in furtherance of his jihadist ideology.) The army chief of staff insisted that the biggest danger was the ensuing discrimination against Muslims. Given this, the Obami naturally expected that they could get away with another see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-don’t identify-any-evil routine. They must have been shocked that the public and media pounced on them.

But Hayes also suggests that there is genuine cluelessness at work. It’s not that the Obami knew better and lied to us. It is that they have engaged in willful ignorance for so long that they were actually surprised by the incident. Suddenly reality harshly interrupted their slumber. He notes anti-terrorism adviser’s John Brennan’s apparent shock “that an al-Qaeda affiliate that had promised to attack the United States had almost succeeded in doing so.” And this administration, as Hayes’s colleague Thomas Joscelyn points out, saw no problem in releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen:

On December 19, 2009, the Obama administration transferred six detainees to Yemen. Only one Yemeni had been repatriated during the previous 11 months—and the Bush administration, which made many of its own mistakes with respect to detainee transfers, had only repatriated a handful of Yemenis over several years. (At least one of them has since returned to terrorism.) But the Obama administration was confident. The New York Times on December 19 cited a “senior administration official” who said the White House was “gaining confidence in Yemen’s willingness to handle returning detainees.” And at the beginning of last year, in January 2009, Obama’s ambassador to Yemen, Stephen Seche, had said the administration intended to repatriate “the majority” of the Yemenis at Guantánamo.

In short, Obama’s out-to-lunchness was both strategic (downplay the war against Islamic fundamentalists) and the result of abject ignorance, perpetuated throughout his administration, as to just how serious was the threat of a Yemen-hatched plot to attack the American homeland. The ho-hum rhetorical ploy has blown up in the Obami’s faces and is likely to be adjusted, although not to the extent that the president would use the words “Islamic fundamentalist” or some variation thereof to describe our enemy. But what about those who apparently didn’t grasp the nature of the threat we faced?

It is appalling, really, that those who wrapped themselves in a cloak of ignorance and carried out foolhardy policies (e.g., refueling the terrorist pipeline in Yemen) should remain in their jobs. Yes, the president is responsible, but he can’t be fired for another three years. In the meantime, what’s the excuse for keeping everyone else around?

Like many of us, Stephen Hayes is struggling to understand how it could be that the president could have seemed so misinformed (claiming that the bombing was the work of an “isolated extremist”) and so disengaged in the days following the Christmas Day bombing attack. He writes:

How is it possible that the president of the United States could get a central fact about an attempted terrorist attack—arguably, the central fact—dead wrong in his first public statement, three days after the attack?

President Obama and White House staffers have spent the subsequent two weeks pointing fingers at the intelligence community, detailing the many failures of the bureaucracy, and promising accountability. Given what we know about those failures, that’s appropriate. But in his January 7 statement announcing the results of the review he had ordered, the president boldly declared that the buck stops with him. Strong rhetoric. So what does it mean in practice? The Obama administration’s lack of seriousness on counterterrorism before the attack seems to have been rivaled only by its incompetence afterwards.

As Hayes points out, part of the explanation is that this was a concerted effort, mimicked by Janet Napolitano and Robert Gibbs, to downplay the incident. Nothing much here. No one died. Our decisions to reject the Bush anti-terror policies are working fine. No need for alarm. Can we get back to health care?

After all, the administration had gotten away with this same blasé routine following the Fort Hood incident. The liberal pundits howled over  anyone inferring a religious motivation (they preferred some psychological diagnosis rather than the ample evidence that Major Hassan did this in furtherance of his jihadist ideology.) The army chief of staff insisted that the biggest danger was the ensuing discrimination against Muslims. Given this, the Obami naturally expected that they could get away with another see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-don’t identify-any-evil routine. They must have been shocked that the public and media pounced on them.

But Hayes also suggests that there is genuine cluelessness at work. It’s not that the Obami knew better and lied to us. It is that they have engaged in willful ignorance for so long that they were actually surprised by the incident. Suddenly reality harshly interrupted their slumber. He notes anti-terrorism adviser’s John Brennan’s apparent shock “that an al-Qaeda affiliate that had promised to attack the United States had almost succeeded in doing so.” And this administration, as Hayes’s colleague Thomas Joscelyn points out, saw no problem in releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen:

On December 19, 2009, the Obama administration transferred six detainees to Yemen. Only one Yemeni had been repatriated during the previous 11 months—and the Bush administration, which made many of its own mistakes with respect to detainee transfers, had only repatriated a handful of Yemenis over several years. (At least one of them has since returned to terrorism.) But the Obama administration was confident. The New York Times on December 19 cited a “senior administration official” who said the White House was “gaining confidence in Yemen’s willingness to handle returning detainees.” And at the beginning of last year, in January 2009, Obama’s ambassador to Yemen, Stephen Seche, had said the administration intended to repatriate “the majority” of the Yemenis at Guantánamo.

In short, Obama’s out-to-lunchness was both strategic (downplay the war against Islamic fundamentalists) and the result of abject ignorance, perpetuated throughout his administration, as to just how serious was the threat of a Yemen-hatched plot to attack the American homeland. The ho-hum rhetorical ploy has blown up in the Obami’s faces and is likely to be adjusted, although not to the extent that the president would use the words “Islamic fundamentalist” or some variation thereof to describe our enemy. But what about those who apparently didn’t grasp the nature of the threat we faced?

It is appalling, really, that those who wrapped themselves in a cloak of ignorance and carried out foolhardy policies (e.g., refueling the terrorist pipeline in Yemen) should remain in their jobs. Yes, the president is responsible, but he can’t be fired for another three years. In the meantime, what’s the excuse for keeping everyone else around?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Anonymous and smart analysis on the prospects for health-care reform: “When this debate spills into January still unresolved, voters are going to say: ‘Enough! Where are the jobs. Where is the economic plan?’”

Meanwhile, the media is catching on: “Barack Obama ran for president on a promise of saving the typical family $2,500 a year in lower health care premiums. But that was then. No one in the White House is making such a pledge now.”

Jamie Fly: “Even if the president eventually sends a significant number of additional troops and allows General McChrystal to implement a counterinsurgency strategy, this painfully drawn out process has had negative consequences and does not bode well for the future U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.” As a retired Air Force chief master sergeant tells Fly: “Our service members are dying and the president is dithering. I have been in the military while a president dithered or failed to make a tough decision, it is eviscerating, and a rot settles in. ‘Commander in Chief’  is not just a fancy title.”

Even if the Obami and the chattering class are playing dumb, the American people are not: “Sixty percent (60%) of likely voters nationwide say last week’s shootings at Fort Hood should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act.”

James Taranto: “Willful ignorance of the enemy’s ideology is of no help in fighting the enemy–or preventing future attacks. In any case clarity, not obfuscation, is the enemy of prejudice.”

Thomas Joscelyn sums up: “So we know that: the Fort Hood Shooter attended the same mosque that Anwar al Awlaki preached at in 2001; Maj. Hasan had clearly adopted jihadist views very similar to those Awlaki has espoused, including the idea that Muslims cannot truly serve in a foreign army that is supposedly attacking all of Islam, by June of 2007; Maj. Hasan contacted Awlaki between ’10 to 20 times’ beginning in December 2008; Maj. Hasan may have posted on Awlaki’s Facebook page on Dec. 14, 2008; and, in July 2009, Awlaki again said that true Muslims cannot serve these armies and called on Muslims to turn against them. Is there really any mystery about what drove Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to commit mass murder?”

David Axelrod wants to “nationalize” the 2010 elections. Really. Republicans reply: “Super.” Someone should ask Red State senators and Blue Dog congressmen if they want to be nationalized.

Another democratic ally, another strained relationship. “President Obama will arrive in Tokyo on Friday, at a time when America’s relations with Japan are at their most contentious since the trade wars of the 1990s.”

Anonymous and smart analysis on the prospects for health-care reform: “When this debate spills into January still unresolved, voters are going to say: ‘Enough! Where are the jobs. Where is the economic plan?’”

Meanwhile, the media is catching on: “Barack Obama ran for president on a promise of saving the typical family $2,500 a year in lower health care premiums. But that was then. No one in the White House is making such a pledge now.”

Jamie Fly: “Even if the president eventually sends a significant number of additional troops and allows General McChrystal to implement a counterinsurgency strategy, this painfully drawn out process has had negative consequences and does not bode well for the future U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.” As a retired Air Force chief master sergeant tells Fly: “Our service members are dying and the president is dithering. I have been in the military while a president dithered or failed to make a tough decision, it is eviscerating, and a rot settles in. ‘Commander in Chief’  is not just a fancy title.”

Even if the Obami and the chattering class are playing dumb, the American people are not: “Sixty percent (60%) of likely voters nationwide say last week’s shootings at Fort Hood should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act.”

James Taranto: “Willful ignorance of the enemy’s ideology is of no help in fighting the enemy–or preventing future attacks. In any case clarity, not obfuscation, is the enemy of prejudice.”

Thomas Joscelyn sums up: “So we know that: the Fort Hood Shooter attended the same mosque that Anwar al Awlaki preached at in 2001; Maj. Hasan had clearly adopted jihadist views very similar to those Awlaki has espoused, including the idea that Muslims cannot truly serve in a foreign army that is supposedly attacking all of Islam, by June of 2007; Maj. Hasan contacted Awlaki between ’10 to 20 times’ beginning in December 2008; Maj. Hasan may have posted on Awlaki’s Facebook page on Dec. 14, 2008; and, in July 2009, Awlaki again said that true Muslims cannot serve these armies and called on Muslims to turn against them. Is there really any mystery about what drove Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to commit mass murder?”

David Axelrod wants to “nationalize” the 2010 elections. Really. Republicans reply: “Super.” Someone should ask Red State senators and Blue Dog congressmen if they want to be nationalized.

Another democratic ally, another strained relationship. “President Obama will arrive in Tokyo on Friday, at a time when America’s relations with Japan are at their most contentious since the trade wars of the 1990s.”

Read Less




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