Fighting Terror with Willful Blindness

The so-called "Global War on Terror" is as far removed from previous wars we've fought as football is from hide-and-seek. In the 20th century, wars were generally fought by countries with clearly defined uniformed combatants bearing military insignia, carrying arms openly, and targeting military personnel rather than civilians. Where civilians were casualties, they were mainly collateral rather than targeted damage.  By contrast, our war with Islamic jihadists is not against any country but against religiously inspired zealots, who wear no uniforms, display no insignias, conceal their armaments, and who hide among, as well as target, civilians.

True, spies, saboteurs, and fifth columnists operated in previous wars outside regular defined battlefields and, thus, also violated the laws of war, but, by contrast, their activities did comparatively little damage. Today, however, terrorist attacks are the preferred method of jihadist warfare, and, as a result, gathering information necessary to prevent them is more important than it was for any previous war. Indeed, acquiring the necessary information is even more important now than in 2001 because Obama has adopted a kill first drone strategy rather than a capture and interrogate policy.

That terrorists are active today on the home front means it is especially necessary to find out who they are, where they are, how many there are, who or what they are targeting, as well as how, where, and when they plan to strike. Moreover, given the destructiveness of weapons today (biological, chemical, and radiological), along with their relative ease of concealment and the difficulties of tracing responsibility, the task for us is close to herculean.

Gagging the Terrorist

Hence, the extraordinary, almost bizarre, nature of the administration's handling of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev given that it is clear he has information we need to know. Indeed, he was apparently talking to the FBI in the hospital for 16 hours before a magistrate judge, likely acting on orders from higher-ups, went out of her way to Mirandize him, something judges are not constitutionally empowered to do. As a result, Tsarnaev apparently shut up altogether. He is now being held as an ordinary domestic criminal free to talk when he, not we, want, when he could have been held as an enemy combatant and interrogated for at least 30 days, had Obama chosen, without ever getting a glimpse of a lawyer.

However, given the administration's choice, and given that they decided to try him as they might an ordinary shoplifter, was it necessary to Mirandize him to protect his constitutional right not to incriminate himself? Yes and no. As Orin Kerr noted, "The police aren't required to follow Miranda. Miranda is a set of rules the government can choose to follow if they want to admit a person's statements in a criminal case in court, not a set of rules they have to follow in every case." As far as Tsarnaev is concerned, there is enough evidence to convict him right now without using anything he might have supplied in any pre-trial interrogation. However, now that he's Mirandized, it is likely that the only way we'll get any information from him, if at all, is through some form of plea bargain, and if we do, it will likely be a year or so away when the point is we need it right now.

The informational problem is even more complicated when we consider the type of enemy the Tsarnaevs represent.  Dzhokhar was a man who shortly after having placed a bomb at the foot of an eight-year-old, went to work-out at his gym and hung and partied with his "friends," all of whom, apparently, were shocked to realize that this happy-go-lucky chap was capable of mass murder. More than anything else, the fact that those who "knew" him best had no understanding whatever of the jihadist evil hidden deep within his psyche reveals the depth of the problem we increasingly face.

Willful Blindness and the Name Game

Nor does it help that the Obama administration seems willfully averse to naming the real enemy. For if they were not trying their best to avoid the obvious and play "Let's Pretend," why term the war with jihadists an "overseas contingency  operation?" Why label the jihadist attack by Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood in 2009 "workplace violence?" And why purge the FBI Training Manual of any reference to Islamic jihadists? Nor is it just the administration; its media lackeys play the game as well.

Why the name game? Why intentionally deprive yourself of the good sense to name the enemy we're actually fighting? Three possibilities come to mind: one is that radical Islamic elements have infiltrated the federal government and have shaped the thinking of the administration so as to protect them and do their business for them. Another is that the administration is so fearful of provoking a non-existent backlash against Muslims that they will do almost anything to avoid fingering them. A third possibility is that Obama wants Americans to think that since he has personally killed Bin Laden, the War on Terror is over. This last is consistent with his willful refusal to label the attack on the Benghazi embassy an act of terror. Nevertheless, however true any of these options may be, none of them is a useful strategy for dealing with an Islamic enemy that anyone with their brain engaged knows full well is the country's dominant terrorist threat.

The Importance of Profiling

Of course, we also know that it is not plausible to paint all Muslims with a terrorist brush, but this certainly doesn't require that we ignore the obvious fact that most all terrorist acts today are the work of Muslims. That some fools feel comfortable ignoring this fact and insist on seeing lone-wolves at work, where anyone with their eyes open sees Islamists, is debilitating. Our main need today is not to look (and hope with David Sirota) for Christian white culprits; it is to ascertain who among all Muslims constitute a danger to us and who do not.

The English political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, put the point well way back in 1651, when he said: "though the wicked were fewer than the righteous, yet because we cannot distinguish them, there is a necessity of suspecting, heeding, anticipating, subjugating, self-defending, ever incident to the most honest and fairest conditioned." Mothers tell their little children not to talk to strangers not because they think all strangers are dangerous, but because children can't tell which are and which are not. U. S. Marines keep their weapons ready to fire when they enter a village in Afghanistan not because they think all Afghanis are the enemy but because they can't distinguish the ones that are from those who are not.

Just as it is necessary for mothers to "suspect" all strangers and American soldiers to suspect all Afghans, so it may become necessary to suspect all devotees of Islam in order to ferret out the terrorists hiding among them. What is obviously not helpful is playing hide-and-seek with terrorists while deliberately wearing blindfolds.

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