Je suis fed up with the politically correct methods and means of counterterrorism pursued by America and its Western allies. There’s so much of that stupidity controlling what we do, with so many bad policies imposed by President Obama and others of his ilk, it’s no wonder the terrorists are winning.
Every time another mass murder occurs, the media’s coverage focuses on the memorials — piles of flowers, rows of candles and hand-drawn signs — and the calls for “unity” and pledges of resolve by national leaders. But all the memorials are totally meaningless. They are merely a stage for politicians to act on, professing emotion, proclaiming unity, and calling for everyone to just keep calm and carry on. Nothing else results from them.
President Obama began military action against ISIS in June 2014. Since then ISIS has grown despite the occasional killing of some ISIS leader accomplished by good intelligence work and a drone strike. Not only does ISIS control big chunks of Iraq and Syria, it now controls key portions of Libya as well. ISIS-trained terrorists — and those radicals who don’t bother to travel to ISIS-held lands for training — are a growing menace to us all.
Obama’s strategy and tactics were intended, as he said, to degrade and eventually destroy ISIS. They have failed. Obama said last Wednesday that defeating ISIS remained his number one priority. But, he added, there will be no change in strategy. Amazingly stupid.
It’s entirely clear that terrorists operate freely among European Union countries — including moving arms and bomb-making materials — because of the EU’s “Schengen” (open borders) agreement. We also have, though President Obama insists otherwise, borders that are open to anyone who wants to sneak across. Obama reminded us last week that he’s committed to bringing about 100,000 “Syrian” refugees to America this year. Dangerously stupid.
Among our European allies things are far worse. There is no sharing of counterterrorism Intelligence among the 28 members of the European Union, so their police and military forces are groping in the dark as a matter of policy. Stupendously stupid.
It’s no wonder that, as the Economist reports, six European nations have at least 18 ISIS terrorists in custody, but ISIS still manages to carry out coordinated attacks as it did at the Brussels Zaventem airport and a subway station last Tuesday. ISIS’s terror network is evidently thriving among the European Union’s 28 member nations. Raids since the Brussels attacks have uncovered evidence proving that point. YGBSM.
Two Fridays ago, the Belgians captured Saleh Abdeslam, ending a four-month manhunt for one of the principal terrorists who had perpetrated the Paris massacre in November. Press reports said that Abdeslam was talking to police. This, undoubtedly, caused his fellow terrorists to accelerate plans for the airport and subway attacks on Tuesday. But for whatever politically correct reason the Belgians chose, they neglected to question him about planned attacks in the future. Ditto.
The Tuesday massacre at the Brussels airport might have been interdicted if Abdeslam had been properly questioned. It’s unlikely, but possible. To not have even tried to question him about what he might know about future attacks is beyond belief.
That was the “ticking time bomb” scenario we’ve all heard about. Not only didn’t the Belgians resort to the enhanced interrogation techniques the CIA used to perform (which weren’t, under American law as it was then, torture). They didn’t even try to question Abdeslam once he decided he wouldn’t talk.
What is the root cause of this politically correct cowardice? For that’s what it is. You can call it what you’d like, but the fact is that our government — and those of our supposedly-strong allies in Europe — are too fearful of offending Muslims to do what is necessary.
Let’s catch our breaths for a minute. We know — as we are reminded by former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden’s new book Playing to the Edge — that our intelligence people are working overtime to do everything possible to stop terrorist attacks. Working with the FBI, they’ve interdicted a great many attacks.
But even the NSA, CIA and FBI, with all the computer power and snooping technologies at their disposal, can’t stop events like the San Bernardino terrorist attack last December. That’s because they can’t go where a lot of the intelligence needs to be obtained.
For example two years ago, under orders from New York’s hyperliberal Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYPD ceased its undercover surveillance program of Muslim communities in New York and neighboring states. At the time, Muslim activists were suing to stop the program. At one point in the proceedings, the judge sided with NYPD saying, according to one report, “‘The police could not have monitored New Jersey for Muslim terrorist activities without monitoring the Muslim community itself,” and that any harm done to the Muslim community was the result of leaks to the press, not the surveillance itself.’
Nevertheless, de Blasio ended the program with considerable fanfare and no visible criticism.
There are two issues here. First, when and where must intelligence gathering be done? Second, when is the application of “hard power” — military and CIA paramilitary action — proper in the face of the consistent failure of “soft power”?
Intelligence gathering has to be done in the places where the information is most likely to be found. The terrorist networks themselves — and their nation-state sponsors such as Iran — are obvious targets. We hear almost every day about ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the rest using social media and encrypted cell phone technology to conduct their operations. The CIA and NSA concentrate much of their assets on those areas every day.
But that’s only half the picture. The NSA — with its partners abroad such as the UK’s GCHQ — tries to connect foreign terrorists to those within the U.S. and our European allies. Sometimes they can’t.
The NSA is legally barred from active surveillance of “U.S. persons” — i.e., anyone in the United States whether or not a citizen — and the CIA is similarly prohibited from operating within the US.
But others can. There’s no constitutional problem with what the New York Police Department did. They went where the intelligence is likely to be obtained. That meant where Muslim men between the ages of 16 and 50 gather: mosques, community centers, and schools. The NYPD, and other state and local law enforcement organizations, need to send intelligence officers (i.e., spies) into those places. They can use court-ordered wiretaps and listening devices. They can do what NSA and CIA can’t. And they must.
Ted Cruz got it wrong last week when he said that police need to “patrol and secure” (i.e., pacify) Muslim neighborhoods. NYPD, to give the most obvious example, isn’t an occupying force. If it is seen as such, intelligence sources will not come forth and those that have will dry up quickly.
The NYPD — and other state and local police forces — need Muslim allies within the community to help gain access to the places they should surveil. When those allies don’t come forward, all other legal, constitutional methods must be pursued.
The application of hard power is a tool of national governments. We have been at war with terrorist networks for fifteen years without dealing decisively with them. As I’ve written many times, we haven’t pursued the ideological half of the war. We have to or we can’t win this war. None of our presidential candidates on either side have given evidence that they understand. We can count on Clinton and Sanders to continue the politically correct approach.
Our intelligence agencies are working hard to spot targets and they succeed only occasionally. That’s not enough. Our next president should give them the tools they need — legislatively and by appropriations — to do the job.
We need to apply hard power in many forms. NSA has undertaken offensive cyberwar against terrorist networks. It should be expanded to more effectively interfere with the money flow not only to terrorists but also to the assets of governments that support terrorism.
The rest of hard power needs to be undertaken under the authority of — at least — a new authorization for the use of military force without the restraint of the one passed quickly after 9/11. All our tools of war need to be employed against the terrorist networks and the nations that support them. That’s easy to say but hard to do. Allies can be helpful, but we can’t be restrained by their lack of courage and assent.
Nous sommes Americans. End the politically correct stupidity. Let’s get on with it.