One of the first steps would be to recognize from where the threat comes. Daniel Pipes of the Hoover Institution of Stanford University gets very politically incorrect, but politically incorrect or not, he tells the truth.
by Daniel Pipes
August 29, 2011
Translations of this item:
N.B.: National Review title is “Making Believe: our terrorism non-policy”; in addition, this text differs in many small ways from the published version
With trumpets and drum rolls, the White House in early August released a policy paper on methods to prevent terrorism, said to have been two years in the making. Signed personally by Barack Obama and with rhetoric vaunting “the strength of communities” and the need to “enhance our understanding of the threat posed by violent extremism,” the document looks anodyne.
But beneath the calm lies a counterproductive–and dangerous–approach to counterterrorism. The import of this paper consists in its firm stand on the wrong side of three distinct counterterrorism debates, with the responsible Right (and a few sensible liberals) on one side, and Islamists, leftists, and multiculturalists on the other.
The first debate concerns the nature of the problem. The responsible Right points to one immense threat, Islamism, a global ideological movement that has motivated some 23,000 terror attacks worldwide since 9/11. Islamists deny that their ideology spawns violence, and they categorize those 23,000 attacks as the work of criminals, crazies, or misguided Muslims. Western leftists and multiculturalists concur, bringing their formidable cadres, creativity, funds, and institutions to support the Islamists’ denial of responsibility.
Hearings held this year by the U.S. House of Representatives illustrate this difference. Peter King (Republican of New York), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, insisted on dealing exclusively with radicalization of Muslims. The ranking Democrat, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, took exception, noting that “there are a variety of domestic extremist groups more prevalent in the United States than Islamic extremists, including neo-Nazis, environmental extremists, anti-tax groups, and others.” He requested that the hearings be “a broad-based examination of domestic extremist groups, regardless of their respective ideological underpinnings.”
King rejected this request, countering that “While there have been extremist groups and random acts of political violence throughout our history, the al Qaeda attacks of 9/11 and the ongoing threat to our nation from Islamic jihad were uniquely diabolical and threatening to America’s security.”
Peter King (left) and Bennie Thompson (right) symbolize the difference in counterterrorism policy outlook.
The second debate concerns how to identify the enemy. The Right and responsible parties generally talk about Islamism, jihad, and terrorism; thus, a New York Police Department report from 2007, Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, refers in its first line to the “threat from Islamic-based terrorism.” Islamists and their allies talk about everything else – violent extremism, Al-Qaeda and Associated Networks (dubbed AQAN), overseas contingency operation, man-caused disasters, and (my favorite) a “global struggle for security and progress.” The forces of multiculturalism have made deep inroads: A U.S. Department of Defense inquiry looked into the 2009 Ft. Hood rampage by Maj. Nidal Hasan, killing 14, and its report, Protecting the Force, never mentioned the terrorist’s name or acknowledged his obvious Islamist motivation.
The third debate concerns the appropriate response. The Islamist-Left-multicultural crowd finds the solution in partnership with Muslims, together with an emphasis on civil rights, due process, lack of discrimination, goodwill, and avoiding a backlash. The responsible Right agrees with these goals but views them as ancillary to the full quiver of military and law enforcement methods, such as intelligence gathering, arrests, long detentions, renditions, deportation, prosecution, and incarceration.
Into these three debates waddles a 4,600-word, poorly-written, ill-organized White House report vehemently advocating the Islamist/Leftist/multiculturalist position.
- Nature of the problem? “neo-Nazis and other anti-Semitic hate groups, racial supremacists, and international and domestic terrorist groups.”
- Name the enemy? The paper itself never mentions Islamism. Its title, Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States, avoids even mentioning terrorism.
- Appropriate response? “Just as we respond to community safety issues [such as gang violence, school shootings, drugs, and hate crimes] through partnerships and networks of government officials, Mayor’s offices, law enforcement, community organizations, and private sector actors, so must we address radicalization to violence and terrorist recruitment through similar relationships and by leveraging some of the same tools and solutions.”
Raising community safety issues reveals a severe conceptual deficiency which the Los Angeles Times dismissed as “implausible.” The report praises the Justice Department’s “Comprehensive Gang Model,” deeming it a flexible framework that “has reduced serious gang-related crimes.” Great news in the battle against gangs! But gangs are criminal enterprises and Islamist violence is ideological warfare. Gang members are hoodlums, Islamists are zealots. To compare them distorts the problem at hand. Yes, they both deploy violence, but applying techniques from one to the other is akin to asking pastry cooks to advise firefighters.
The lone sentence in Empowering that recognizes the danger of Islamism fixates on one small group, stating that “al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents represent the preeminent terrorist threat to our country.” This ignores the 99 percent of the Islamist movement unconnected to Al-Qaeda, such as the Wahhabi movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Iranian government, Hamas, Hizbullah, Jamaat ul-Fuqra, not to speak of so-called lone wolves. Rep. Sue Myrick (Republican of North Carolina) rightly notes that the policy paper “raises more questions … than it answers.”
The intellectual roots of Empowered go back to a George Soros-funded 2004 initiative, the Promising Practices Guide: Developing Partnerships Between Law Enforcement and American Muslim, Arab, and Sikh Communities by Deborah A. Ramirez, Sasha Cohen O’Connell and Rabia Zafar. These authors made their outlook clear: “The most dangerous threats in this war [on terrorism] are rooted in the successful propagation of anger and fear directed at unfamiliar cultures and people.” The most dangerous threat, they announced, is not Islamist terror, with its thousands of fatalities, but a supposed widespread bias by Americans against minorities. As I observed in 2004, “The guide might present itself as an aide to counterterrorism but its real purpose is to deflect attention from national security to the privileging of select communities.”
While the document unobjectionably emphasizes American constitutional values and the need to partner with Muslims, it says not a word about the need to distinguish between Islamist and anti-Islamist Muslims. Empowering finesses the dismal fact that Islamists dominate the organized American Muslim leadership and their objectives share more with terrorists than counterterrorists. Rep. King correctly worries that the White House document condemns “legitimate criticism of certain radical organizations or elements of the Muslim-American community,” something urgently needed to distinguish foe from friend.
Indeed, the Obama administration’s willingness to partner with Muslims who reject the Constitutional order accounts for Islamist organizations’ delighted responses to this paper. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a terrorist-supporting front organization, praised it as “objective and holistic,” while the likeminded Muslim Public Affairs Council deemed it “very useful.”
In contrast, Melvin Bledsoe, father of a convert to Islam, Carlos Bledsoe, who in 2009 shot and killed a soldier at a military-recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark., said of the report: “It’s never going to fix the problem when they’re trying to dance around the issues.” Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations dismissed it for saying “worryingly little” and being primarily designed “not to offend Muslims.”
In brief, an organization connected to terrorists swoons over the administration’s pretend counterterrorism policy while the grieving father of a terrorist scornfully dismisses it. That tells us everything.
What now, with the enshrining of a fringe study as national policy? There are no shortcuts: Those who want a genuine counterterrorism policy must work to remove the Left and the multiculturalists from government.
Mr. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2011 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Related Topics: Counter-terrorism, US policy
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I had written about this almost four years ago:
This is just more of the idiotic notion that our defense against Islamic fascism ought to be conducted as a criminal investigation, with all of the niceties of law enforcement followed, with some sort of eye to bringing the accused to a fair trial under the rules of evidence. It is the same kind of lunacy which thinks that prisoners caught on the battlefield, fighting against American soldiers, ought not to be held as prisoners of war, but as innocent men accused of crimes, who ought to have access to attorneys and the courts, and should be released if specific criminal charges cannot be proven against each one individually. (The Bush Administration is partially complicit in this, in deciding not to declare them prisoners of war, under which they could be held until the war is over, but preferring the idea of military tribunals to determine specific punishments.)
Another thing which has drawn ALa’s ire is a now-shelved proposal for the Los Angeles Police department to “to have its counterterrorism bureau identify Muslim enclaves to determine which might be likely to become isolated and susceptible to ‘violent, ideologically based extremism.’ ”
Ya know, because if for 20 years short blondes were blowing up bridges . . . . I’d be pissed if they had the audacity to stop me and check my car before I crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge . . . .
Michael Smerconish, the morning drive time talk show host on Philadelphia’s WPHT-AM radio and an attorney, wrote the book Flying Blind, concerning the refusal to use reasonable techniques, including profiling, to prevent terrorists from boarding civilian aircraft.
(I had always respected Mr Smerconish’s intelligence and percipiency, but when our friends at Pandagon tried to make “Smerconish” into a derogatory adjective, my respect for him only increased.)
He has railed against the impracticality, the idiocy, and the complete lack of common sense, of stopping blue-haired little old ladies for expanded searches while allowing young Middle Eastern men to go through under only routine scrutiny, to keep the extended checks both random and politically correct. That’s the kind of thing the ACLU would support, because our friends at the ACLU are so concerned with the fine points of the law that the big picture completely escapes them: if the Islamists win, all of the things they find precious go out the window.
Let’s be clear here: we are not fighting Mennonite terrorism, and we are very much unconcerned with Buddhist rebels. Even the radical Episcopalians threaten only internal schism, not American security. If the Islamists manage to recruit a disaffected Ron Paulist to fly a jetliner into the Sears Tower, well then they’ll have more luck getting around the system and a better chance at success, but our enemies are almost exclusively Muslims of Middle Eastern extraction, and when surveilling for terrorists, that’s where sensible defense concentrates. If the Muslims who are not interested in bringing down this country don’t like being suspected of sympathizing with the extremists and the terrorists, it’s very simple: don’t hide the extremists and the terrorists, don’t give them cover, and don’t help them.
Of course, the biggest part of the problem is that so many of our friends on the left are unwilling to see the Islamists as enemies at all. They might not have come out in the idiotic manner of disgraced former professor Ward Churchill and directly blame 9/11 on the US, but too many of them have some sympathy for Mr Churchill’s arguments, that bread leavened, no doubt, by Bush Derangement Syndrome.
In fourteen months and three days, George Bush will no longer be president — but our enemies will still be out there. They need to get over their BDS now.
Fortunately, since that time, President Obama has given up on his cockamamie notions of closing the Islamists’ prison at Guantanamo and trying the prisoners there in Federal District Court. He has prosecuted the war against al Qaeda and their Taliban allies more strongly than did President Bush, which is to his credit, and he didn’t quit the job early in Iraq.
But the politically correct bovine feces that came from his Administration in Empowering shows that there is still a divide in his Administration, still a substantial group, who don’t want to offend anyone, just because they might be our enemies.
After all is said and done, I have used Dr Pipes’ last line as our new blog tagline:
There are no shortcuts: Those who want a genuine counterterrorism policy must work to remove the Left and the multiculturalists from government.