Nearly nine years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, how are we doing at national security and homeland security? Short answer: Not well. And as we saw Wednesday in the case of U.S. v. Arizona, the Obama administration seems determined to be on the wrong side of every critical issue.
Let’s look at three theaters of operation in this worldwide “Long War.” First, our military secrets from Afghanistan have “Wikileaked” out to the world, undermining our military effort in the Middle East; second, our border with Mexico is in chaos; and third, Islamic radicals are trying to build a mosque near the Ground Zero site in lower Manhattan -- thus signaling, in their minds, their moral victory over us.
In warfare, the goal is to strike where the enemy is weakest. And so on 9/11, our enemies struck here, inside the U.S., in our soft underbelly. Today, for the most part, our enemies are sticking with this pattern of “asymmetric warfare”--hitting us where we are weakest. Al Qaeda is still active in Iraq, but they are attacking Iraqi TV stations, not American troops, bulked up as they are in body armor and armored vehicles. Nor is Al Qaeda fighting the U.S. in Afghanistan; the 200,000 American troops and militarized contractors in that country are engaging mostly local Taliban forces.
Yet in keeping with the asymmetric idea, Al Qaeda is active in Pakistan, where it is at least somewhat protected by our “ally,” the Pakistan government. And from Pakistan, Al Qaeda can send out agents, such as Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to set off a bomb in New York City’s Times Square on May 1-- once again, hitting us where we are soft, not hard. As Fox News reported, sources close to the investigation say that Shahzad’s bomb could have “killed in the thousands” if it had gone off as intended; fortunately, Shahzad was incompetent.
Now, in the meantime, a new asymmetric front has opened up, showing just how vulnerable the U.S. is to a whole new kind of sneak attack. The whole world is now combing through all our military secrets, thanks to the dump of 100,000 or so classified files by Wikileaks, a group based, of all places, in Iceland. Supporters of Wikileaks will make the usual arguments about transparency and free speech, but Ross Baker, a progressive political scientist at Rutgers University, summed it up well in Politico on Monday: “This information is giving aid and comfort to the enemy and begins to look like WikiTreason.”
Without a doubt, the consequences of this leak will be profound: Here at FoxForum, K.T. McFarland described the Wikileaks issue as the “decisive factor” in the war, bigger than drones, smart bombs or IEDs.
Astonishingly, investigators suspect that all this leaked information was the work of a single 22-year-old enlisted man in the Army, Bradley Manning. How could one individual gain such access to all that classified material? Clearly we have grossly under-prioritized information security. Even more astonishingly, a cottage industry of support for Manning has popped up, thus demonstrating that our rights-not-responsibilities culture -- including every destructive act harmful to our national security -- will find ample sympathy, even support, from somewhere in our society.
To put the Wikileaks story in perspective -- and also the big series on the U.S. homeland security effort in The Washington Post last week -- we need merely ask: Would these sorts of leaks and revelations have been allowed during World War II? And the answer, of course, is a resounding “no.”
It’s also worth recalling that we won World War II. And yet as the record of the last half-century makes clear, the U.S. has a hard time, at best, winning a war of any length in the modern media environment. It's great that we have all this openness and press freedom, but it's not so great if we lose a war, and maybe more than that.
The second theater is the U.S.-Mexican border. We can’t say that the narco drug gangs are in league with Al Qaeda and Islamic radicals -- at least not yet. But we can say that the narco gangs are enemies of America, increasingly well armed and sophisticated in the ways of asymmetric warfare, including car bombs. Nor is the violence confined to the Mexican side of the border; kidnappings and killings have occurred within the U.S. Indeed, the federal government has ordered that some national parks be closed, because Uncle Sam can no longer guarantee the safety of Americans who might travel through them.
So what’s been the Obama administration’s response? To sue the state of Arizona for attempting to protect itself. Just yesterday, the Obama Justice Department won a victory over the Arizona law. So now, even more than before, the Obama administration “owns” the failure of the current homeland security system. Such “ownership” might please law professors and card-carrying libertarians, but the average American will have to wonder, yet again, whether the Obamans care about the constitutional mandate to “insure domestic tranquility.”
Moreover, there are persistent reports that Islamic radicals are operating in the area, which might explain the increasing use of car bombs. It might seem alarmist, but it’s possible to see another 9/11 occurring somewhere in the Southwest.
Third and finally, we are fighting a kind of war over the memory and legacy of Ground Zero. The plan to put an “Islamic Center” just 600 feet from the former site of the World Trade Center is a bad idea, pure and simple. Is it freedom of religion? No, it’s a disturbance of the peace -- a calculated insult. And only a mistaken view of civil liberties makes one unable to see the threat posed by this mosque -- violating, as it does, normal standards of respect for community and patriotic values.
The problem goes back to the U.S. Supreme Court, in a case involving one Arthur Terminiello, who, in the late 1940s, delivered a speech full of pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic rantings that caused a riot in Chicago. The Chicago cops locked up Terminiello for “breach of the peace,” and the case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1949, the Supreme Court ultimately nullified the Chicago ordinance, siding instead with Terminiello and the absolutist civil libertarian right to stir up trouble in the name of free speech. The court’s wrong-headed decision inspired a famous dissent from Justice Robert Jackson:
The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact.
These clear words are often paraphrased as, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” Yet unfortunately, Jackson was outvoted, and that’s a big reason why we must confront national security/homeland security threats with one hand tied behind our back.
With Justice Jackson’s argument -- plus common sense - -firmly in mind, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has emerged as the sharpest and most logical voice on the Ground Zero mosque issue. His words are worth repeating here, at some length, because they get right to the heart of the issue not only of asymmetrical warfare, but also of American national survival.
"There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.
“The proposed "Cordoba House" overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3,000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks - is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites. For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.
“Today, some of the Mosque’s backers insist this term is being used to "symbolize interfaith cooperation" when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way. . . .
America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could.
Amen to every word of what Gingrich wrote. There’s no reason for us to commit cultural suicide over the Ground Zero mosque issue, even if that’s what some wish us to do. And, we might add, there’s no reason why we have to allow our national security to be undermined by Wikileaks, or our homeland security to be undermined by a cross-border invasion.
But we have to say it: The trendlines right now are ominous.
We could fix all those problems, but only if we can summon up the willpower --and the right leaders.
James P. Pinkerton is a writer, Fox News contributor and the editor/founder of SeriousMedicineStrategy.
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James P. Pinkerton is a Fox News contributor. He worked in the White House domestic policy offices of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He is also the editor of CureStrategy.org.