Neocons (and, yeah, that was a label) Stephen Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn write at the end of a long article,
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 â€œterrorismâ€ 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 â€œGlobal War on Terrorâ€ in favor of â€œOverseas Contingency Operations.â€ And just last month, we learned that the White Houseâ€™s forthcoming National Security Strategy would not use religious words such as â€œjihadâ€ and â€œIslamic extremism.â€
When asked why she did not utter the word â€œterrorismâ€ in the course of her testimony, Napolitano explained that she used â€œman-caused disasterâ€ instead to avoid â€œthe politics of fear.â€
The Department of Homeland Security was created after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history to prevent further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. And the head of that department is worried that using the word â€œterrorismâ€ is playing the politics of fear.
As many people have pointed out, the label “war on terror” is, um, stupid. It’s not “terror” we’re supposed to be “fighting,” but a movement that foments terrorism. Further, affixing the label “war on terror” on something limited to “radical Islam” is a distortion of reality, since radical jihadists are not the only terrorists potentially active in the U.S.
Even more further, as I wrote a few days ago, there are pragmatic reasons why it’s useful to keep the rhetoric toned down. The only real effect of wantonly tossing around the words “terror” and “terrorist” is to make people more terrorized. Making people feel more terrorized is hardly an effective way to counter terrorism.
Most furthest, slapping the label “terrorism” on something doesn’t change what it is. If we hear news stories saying some Muslim guy tried to blow up a car in Times Square, does it really add anything to our knowledge or understanding of the incident to label it “terrorism”? It was what it was. It might be useful if we were all more discriminating about the use of the word terrorism and confined it to a limited definition, but when you slap it onto every alarming act that happens to have been committed by a Muslim, the word no longer has a useful purpose.
I think the authors do have a point when they say,
But success in the war on terror is not apprehending terrorists after their attacks fail. Success is preventing them from attempting the attack in the first place.
However, the idea that there could ever be 100 percent prevention is sheer fantasy. Real success, the ultimate goal, is reducing the level of extremism in the world so that fewer people will be inspired to attempt acts of terrorism. Even then, there’s no way to prevent lone wolf whackjobs from, say, killing 14 people in a shooting rampage. And let’s not forget those who bomb abortion clinics or blow up a federal building.
How many times has some individual committed some act of mass violence, after which people commented, Wow, I never would have thought he would have done something like that. He was such a quiet guy? The only way you could attempt to prevent all such incidents would be to turn the U.S. into a police state, encouraging people to report to authorities every time their family members and neighbors make an offhand remark about wanting to shoot somebody.
And, of course, that much statist authority would provoke a lot of people into violence.
Hayes and Joscelyn continue,
The Times Square attack was the third time in the past six months that an individual terrorist with ties to high-level Islamic radicals overseas has launched an attack on the American homeland. In each instance, Americaâ€™s vast, multibillion dollar intelligence and law enforcement establishment failed to detect the terroristsâ€™ plans beforehand. And in each instance Obama administration officials moved quickly to minimize the significance of the attack and downplay the connections that the attackers had with international terrorists.
The degree to which Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan or Faisal Shahzad had “ties to high-level Islamic radicals overseas” is a bit squishy, but this is coming from Stephen Hayes; he and Dick the Dick were among the last holdouts to abandon the much debunked “Atta in Prague” story (if indeed they ever really abandoned it). So you know Hayes really wants there to be “ties to high-level Islamic radicals overseas,” and will see ties whether they are there or not.
Anyway, my understanding is that Abdulmutallab and Hasan were in contact with Anwar al-Awlaki, thought to be a high-level al Qaeda recruiter. But it seems doubtful they were acting under the direction of al Qaeda leadership (and if they were, al Qaeda leadership ain’t what it used to be). They and Shahzad seem more like wannabees than anything else. Even the Right’s one-time hero Gen David Petraeus is saying that Shahzad acted on his own. He was â€œinspired by militants in Pakistan but didnâ€™t have direct contact with them,â€ Petraeus said.
The vast, multibillion dollar intelligence and law enforcement establishment is, I hope, tuned to the machinations of real high-level radicals, Islamic or otherwise. The fact that only low-level lone-wolf amateurs have been able to slip through the cracks ought to be reassuring, I would think.
All three men appear to have turned to radical Islam after making a mess of their personal lives or otherwise wandering into some psychological cul-de-sac. One suspect their radicalization was as much a product of psychological pathology as anything else. Their ethnic and religious backgrounds determined how the pathology expressed itself, of course. These three fancied themselves to be warriors for Allah as opposed to, say, freedom fighters striking a blow against big government.
But in Hayes’s world, death and destruction fomented by radical Muslims is more worser than death and destruction fomented by radical [fill in the blank]. This is why the labels are so important to him, I suppose.