When Will Obama Get a Grip on Islamic Terrorism?

Someone needs to tell President Obama that the global War on Terror is alive and well, and not receding, as he would like Americans to believe.  Collen Hufford was beheaded in Oklahoma; in New York, an axe was embedded in the head of a New York City Policeman.  In Western Europe, Islamic extremists killed Jews and journalists in France, while in Belgium there were shootouts.  In Sydney, Australia, a hostage crisis resulted in two killed, and in Canada, soldiers were murdered.  There are reports that as many as 20 sleeper cells could be ready to strike in France, Germany, Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands.  American Thinker interviewed experts on this complex and growing terrorism threat.

It appears there are multiple threats facing the Western world today.  There is the “lone wolf,” who appears to be self-motivated and self-radicalized; organized groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda; and a third group described by former CIA director Michael Hayden as the “wolf pack.”  Each of these types has certain characteristics.

Jeffrey D. Simon, author of the book Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat, describes the “individual” terrorist as desiring a justification for his life.  “These loners can feel a part of this virtual terrorist group.  They can learn tactics, targets, and how to use weapons on the internet.  The chat rooms become training camps that empower the individual.”

Michael Hayden sees the “European wolf pack” linked to those in Yemen.  “I am not prepared to say those in France were directed to do what they did, but they certainly seem connected to the mother ship.  France showed a more sophisticated, targeted, and planned attack that was very effective.”  This group travels to the Middle East to train and then returns to Europe, similar to mercenaries for hire, where the payment is the killings of innocent Westerners.

Many of the terrorist organizations are competing for street credentials.  Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stated on Fox, “They're [ISIS] fighting for status with al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra.  All of these guys are bidding for future recruits and status, and the gold medal goes to the one that can hit us here at home.”  At this point in time, Hayden told American Thinker he does not see any cooperation among these groups because they are strategically competitors, with any perceived cooperation as incidental and tactical. 

What needs to be done to combat these terrorist threats is first and foremost a change of strategy.  Many leaders in the Western world and even the Egyptian president are now using rhetoric that labels the true enemy.  At a recent news conference in the U.S., British prime minister David Cameron bluntly described the problem as a “very serious Islamist extremist terrorist threat…But most important of all, we must also fight this poisonous ideology starting at home.” 

French prime minister Manuel Valls said about his nationʼs terrorist attacks, “It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity.  Journalists were killed because they defended freedom.  Policemen were killed because they were protecting you.  Jews were killed because they were Jewish.  The indignation must be absolute and total – not for three days only, but permanently.”

Egypt’s President El Sisi stated, “It's inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire Islamic world to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing, and destruction for the rest of the world. … Does this mean that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world's inhabitants that is 7 billion, so that they themselves may live?​”

Even as terrorism is exploding all across Europe, President Obama is still spreading the false narrative.  At his latest news conference, he stayed the rhetorical course, calling the threat “violent extremism.”  He has constantly failed to clearly state the obvious perpetrator and enemy: Islamic terrorists. 

Congressman Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) is not that concerned about getting the semantics correct, because he believes that actions speak louder than words.  “I think this administration has often failed in both respects.  I don’t know if you can fight a serious war if you don’t know or won’t say whom you’re fighting.  The president still hasn’t given us a winning strategy to defeat ISIS.  He withdrew from Iraq too quickly, without leaving behind any forces to maintain stability, and that’s turned into a disaster.  I am very concerned about the general feeling of detachment we’re seeing from the president.”

Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the intelligence committee, concurs: “We are engaged in a multigenerational war with Islamist terrorists, and the president’s refusal to call Islamist terrorism by its name is not helpful in clarifying our struggle.  A bedrock principle should be supporting our friends and allies who are open to Western ideals and the rule of law.  The Obama administration policy can best be described as ‘strategic incoherence.’”

Liz Cheney noted to American Thinker that the president in 2012 ran on untruths regarding the War on Terror.  She regards this administration’s national security team as “completely incompetent.  None of them seems to understand that pre-emptive capitulation to those who wish us ill never leads to victory.  This administration is not taking the proper steps to defeat this threat.  Just look at what happened with John Kerry’s latest visit to Paris.  What he did with James Taylor is beyond words.  It is unbelievable.  This administration appeared like such fools on the world stage.  Somebody actually came up with the idea that the way to handle the growth of terrorism across Europe is to take James Taylor to Paris.  This is idiocy.”

All interviewed feel there is a need for interrogating terrorists to gain actionable intelligence.  Matthew Dunn is a former MI6 operative and an author, whose latest book is Dark Spies.  He believes that HUMINT are “the bread and butter of intelligence, the running of assets.  We need to interpret what is happening.  With assets I can follow up and use my judgment to see if they are lying or being honest, something I explain in my books.  It is very difficult to do that from a drone screen.  President Kennedy did that with the Cuban Missile Crisis, where he did not just take the word of photographs, but insisted on verification.  An MI6 asset, a Russian colonel, collaborated all the information.  This shows the value of human intelligence.”

Dunn also told American Thinker he is hoping that Western leaders put an emphasis “on our values and the need to stick by them.  The Muslim communities must step up and say this is not acceptable, just as the Egyptian president has done.  What I have seen in the U.K. is that we have bent over backwards to say Islam is a religion of peace.  But now, we need to say Muslims are welcome in our country, but they must integrate.  They must take account of our democratic principles and values.  I think our liberal concept of tolerance is almost at a breaking point.  Anyone can get offended for various reasons, but we are not going to cut someone’s head off or shoot him because of it.”

As Hayden noted, it is obvious that this new terrorist threat is of a lower threshold and more frequent, and that we should re-examine our strategies.  What should be done is reinsert some of the strategies used after 9/11, including surveillance of the mosques, renew the PATRIOT Act, and go back to capturing and interrogating terrorists.  If not, the Western world will see more killings of innocents.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.

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