May 21, 2024

Responding to Terrorism Requires a Tough Attitude, Long-Term Perspective

In the aftermath of the failed Christmas-day attempt to bring a Northwest Airlines flight down, David Broder says that 9/11 was a call to duty to President Bush and 12/25 could trigger the same response in President Obama and help him change his approach to dealing with terrorism. For the sake of Americans everywhere, let’s hope so.

The Christmas plot appears to have shaken Obama like nothing else that happened in his first year.

When he allowed the White House to quote his warning to his Cabinet colleagues that another “screw-up” like that could not be tolerated, he seemed to signal his benign leadership style had reached its limits.

Many have been looking for a similar shift of tone in his dealings with the dictators in Iran and North Korea and even in his tolerance for the politics-as-usual maneuverings of many Republicans and some Democrats in Congress.

Hopefully the president will have the courage to admit that his softer approach to dealing with terrorists was doomed to fail from the beginning. That’s not easy to do in American politics, so if he does take that nearly unprecedented step I hope that Republicans will rise above the temptation to dwell on “I told you so” and get down to the business of punching terrorists in the teeth.

One cannot fault the president too much over the latest incident. Yes, it’s his ultimately responsibility, but putting politics aside, what would another president have done differently in the absence of specific information?

Adbulmutallab’s name was one in about 550,000 of an intelligence database of people with suspected terrorist ties. There was not enough information about Abdulmutallab’s nexus to terrorism to get him onto a subset of the list where he would have been flagged in initial screening. An even stricter “no-fly” list contains about 3,400 names.

Likely nothing, though the intelligence services with direct access to information obviously erred by not giving appropriate credence to Adbulmutallab’s father’s warning about his son’s radicalization. Rather than dwell on this failure, it’s more important to move ahead with needed changes in our approach to border security.

First, there’s no reason for any of the 550,000 known associates of terrorists to be allowed into the United States. Harsh? Perhaps. Discriminatory, I certainly hope so. The fact is that these people, taken as a group, have nothing to offer America. Why would we allow them to travel here, ever?

Taking the next logical step, in the absence of special skills or capabilities, it’s a dubious proposition to allow any immigration to take place from countries that harbor and sponsor terrorism. That’s particularly true of young males, who have been documented to be the culprits behind most home-grown terrorist plots. The same is certainly true of foreign-born terrorists as well, particularly given women’s subservient role in the cultures that tend to breed terrorism.

Our screening process, in other words, needs to reflect the actual dangers in play, even when the necessary responses impact selected groups of individuals disproportionately. As unfair as that may seem, our standards are our own to determine and our immigration policy likewise.

One thing that should be immediately stopped are the “diversity visas” that the State Department is giving out to people from “countries that typically see low levels of immigration to the U.S.” While this isn’t necessarily a disqualifying attribute, it’s quite droll to note that on the list are “all four countries the U.S considers state sponsors of terror — Iran, Sudan, Cuba, and Syria — and 13 of the 14 nations that are coming under special monitoring from the Transportation Security Administration as founts of terrorism.” Seems obvious that these are the last places we want to be recruiting immigrants from in the absence of a rigorous screening process that includes criteria for terrorist ties and the applicant’s true value to America.

Some may quiver over such deliberate discrimination on the part of our government, but making choices about who can come to this country is, after all, one of the responsibilities immigration authorities must shoulder. More importantly, it’s vitally important that we do so in order to insulate ourselves from needless dangers that exist overseas. Such decisions are not easy to make; however, they are entirely legal and within the purview of the Constitution.

In his letter to the Houston Chronicle on this subject, Jim Proctor had this to say:

The values stated in our Declaration of Independence are vitally important to us as a free country. However, how this country responds to challenges to our independence and the liberties we have through our Constitution, is who we are today. What keeps this nation strong is not the documents in the National Archives but the lengths we are willing to go to defend the promises in them.

Indeed. As a forty-something year-old man, I admit to having some interest in how the religious/cultural war that’s being waged against us unfolds. But it’s far more important to me in terms of how it will impact my children and grandchildren than for myself. Our succeeding generations deserve to receive the best version of America that we can given them and that means one whose Constitution is still observed and whose national security has not been compromised.

This may require some unpleasantness, just as America’s Cold War with the Soviet Union did. For example, see Charles Krauthammer’s explanation of why Guantanamo should stay in business:

This is a fanatical religious sect dedicated to establishing the most oppressive medieval theocracy and therefore committed to unending war with America not just because it is infidel but because it represents modernity with its individual liberty, social equality (especially for women) and profound tolerance (religious, sexual, philosophical). You going to change that by evacuating Guantanamo?

The prison for captured terrorists at Guantanamo Bay is one of the least significant aspects of the War on Terror. The amount of resources devoted to this issue completely dwarfs its importance in the grand scheme of things and should be redirected to other, more important issues.

Understand that there is a mistaken idea that many, many Americans – and American leaders – hold, namely that if we stop doing things they don’t like and retreat to our borders that the terrorists abroad will leave us alone. But that naive world-view completely overlooks – deliberately, IMO – the fact that Islamic terrorism is and will continue to be directed at the United States as long as it exists.

The 12/25 attack was not the last of its kind and it’s foolish to believe it will be. We must react accordingly if we’re to leave an America our children deserve to inherit behind.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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