In the case of the Christmas Day terror attack, the Obama administration has gone from denying error to acknowledging a systematic failure of intelligence. But nothing the president and his hapless advisers have said, nor the reviews ordered by the president, suggest that they are re-examining the fundamental policy errors that, if unaddressed, will continue to undermine the safety and security of Americans. Yes, we should fire the ball-droppers (Dennis Blair should be preparing to “spend more time with his family”). And we should figure out how to elevate suspected terrorists to the “no fly” watch list when their parents turn them in to the CIA. But there is more to the problem than that. Unfortunately, one has the sense that in all the new-found frenzy to “report what went wrong,” no one will report that the president’s own ideological predispositions and outlook are at the root of the problem. Three of these come to mind.
First, if we persist in treating terrorists as criminal defendants, we will not get the maximum amount of information required to prevent further attacks. Andy McCarthy explains:
A terrorist submitted to the criminal justice system immediately after arrest must be brought to court and have counsel assigned promptly — generally, within six hours. As a defendant, the terrorist is empowered because once he has counsel and a case to fight, he realizes he has cards to play — he is incentivized to hold back the most critical, fresh, operational intelligence in order to pressure the prosecutors into dropping charges, dropping the death penalty, and agreeing to various other accommodations. His confederates are empowered because the discovery provided for his criminal case, and then the public trial, provide a window into what the government knows about the enemy.
Second, we cannot, as Cliff May puts it, make ourselves “inoffensive” to our enemies:
President Obama’s Cairo speech, his respectful outreach to Iran’s radical mullahs, his pledge to close Guantanamo, his ban on coercive interrogations, his multicultural family history and his middle name — none of this has had the slightest impact on those dedicated to waging holy war against what they see as the “Satanic” West.
Our enemies have many grievances — from our support of Israel to our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen to our laissez-faire attitudes toward women and homosexuals. Nothing we do to appease them will be enough because what they really want is to humiliate, defeat, and dominate us; to force us to live under sharia law, embrace their religion as they interpret it, or suffer the consequences due arrogant infidels. We know this because they tell us.
And third, by refusing to identify our enemies — Islamic fundamentalists — we encourage officials (from Major Nadal Hassan’s colleagues to State Department bureaucrats) to ignore red flags that suggest a radicalized jihadist may be ready to strike. We refuse to profile terrorists when we know their profiles. (As Newt Gingrich noted, “Today, because our elites fear politically incorrect honesty, they believe that it is better to harass the innocent, delay the harmless, and risk the lives of every American than to do the obvious, the effective, and the necessary.”) Yes, that means going into mosques when we believe there is intelligence to be gathered there. It means empowering, not penalizing, members of the armed services who report that one of their own may have fallen under the sway of jihadism. The cult of political correctness, which excuses aberrant behavior, has to end. And that cannot happen if the commander in chief refuses to speak candidly about the identity of our enemies and their ideological motivations.
All of this would, of course, require that the Obami rethink their “not Bush” approach to the war on terror. That would be a bitter bill indeed to swallow. But unless and until they do so, they are gambling with the lives of Americans, and with their own political futures. The country would forgive them a reversal in policy; it will likely not forgive them should a terrorist catastrophe occur.