Imagine if, in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, FDR had taken to the radio and declared everything was under control.
The Nov. 13 terrorist attack on Paris, paired with today’s attacks in Brussels, is the European equivalent of back-to-back Pearl Harbors. Yet, the U.S. administration sits as sanguine as ever, arguing it has everything in hand.
The U.S. ought to pay a lot more attention to Europe's troubles. That's not to say America and Europe face the same security threat. Yes, ISIS now has global reach. But, the face of ISIS looks different in different parts of the globe.
Europe is a hotbed of homegrown extremist communities. It also has established “underground railroads” transporting ISIS fighters to the Middle East and back. European terror cells communicate with each other all the time.
In contrast, the threat in the U.S. is much more diffuse. Terrorist travel in and out of the country, while not impossible, is certainly more problematic than in Europe, for example.
That said, the terrorist networks of today have shown remarkable resilience and the capacity to adapt and innovate.
The reality is that the face of global terrorism is rapidly changing, and there are real questions over whether Washington is keeping up with the threat.
Rather than await the next wake-up call—in the form of a big, smoking hole in the ground—Washington should move quickly to assemble a next-generation 9/11 Commission to reevaluate the threat in a sober, bipartisan manner.
Unfortunately, the odds of this administration calling for such a review are small. It has shown great reluctance in fighting the long war and little ability to change its assumptions about our foes. The prospects that it would entertain dissenting views—much less make major, proactive adjustments in in its counterterrorism policies—are about as likely as a Kardashian ducking a red carpet walk.
On the other hand, a bipartisan review by knowledgeable, responsible experts could serve the next president well, helping him or her to understand where we are and where we need to go to keep America safe from the constantly morphing terrorist threat. Congress could give our next president—and the American people—a huge advantage by establishing a new review commission now.