The Folly Continues

Andy McCarthy:

…no thanks to the government, the plane was not destroyed, and we won’t get to the bottom of the larger conspiracy (enabling the likes of Napolitano to say there’s no indication of a larger plot — much less one launched by an international jihadist enterprise) because the guy got to lawyer up rather than be treated like a combatant and subjected to lengthy interrogation. But the terrorist will be convicted at trial (this “case” tees up like a slam-dunk), so the administration will put it in the books as a success … just like the Clinton folks did after the ’93 WTC bombers and the embassy bombers were convicted. In their minds, litigation success equals national security success.

Stooge Gibbs said today that the administration takes the war seriously, but you wouldn’t know it by their behavior. Attempting to blow up a civilian airliner while being Muslim is not a civilian crime — it is an act of war, by an illegal combatant.

[Update a few minutes later]

More thoughts from Victor Davis Hanson:

I think the year-long mantra of “Bush destroyed the Constitution” is now almost over, and we will begin again worrying about our collective safety rather than scoring partisan points by citing supposed excesses in our anti-terrorism efforts. With the delay in closing Guantanamo (from the promised shuttering on Jan. 20, 2010 to . . . sometime in 2011?), Obama’s quiet copy-catting of Bush security protocols (such as wiretaps, intercepts, tribunals, and renditions), and the popular outcry against the upcoming show trial of KSM in New York, a public consensus is growing that radical Muslims like Hasan and Mutallab will continue to attempt to kill Americans. Citizens increasingly understand that the last eight years of relative safety following 9/11 were due only to heightened security at home and proactive use of force abroad, that we should cease trying to appease radical Islam by dreaming up new euphemisms (“overseas contingency operations,” “man made disasters,” etc.), and that it is time to stop the apologetics and kowtowing, and grudgingly accept that thousands of radical Islamic fundamentalists worldwide want to kill Americans — and dozens of governments, at least on the sly, hope that they do. Such venom has nothing to do with past American behavior or George Bush’s strut, nor can it be ameliorated on the cheap by Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize, middle name, or reset-button diplomacy.

Even if he starts now, though, people will remember the naivety of the first year of office, and the left will remain angry at him that he’s acting just like the BusHitler. He’s in a no-win situation, politically. And I have no sympathy. He asked for the job, and lied his way into it.

16 thoughts on “The Folly Continues”

  1. Doesn’t this act demonstrate how weak and pathetic is the enemy, whoever that is. Is this the best the enemy can muster? Might a little perspective about the enemy be in order?

  2. Jardinero, so your plan, and the administrations, is to count on the enemy failing every single time?

    Brilliant. Really.

  3. No, I don’t think I wrote anything like that. Let me read it again. Nope, I didn’t say that.

    I am asking how best to deal with an enemy who can attack only once in a while and at most kill in small numbers. I say small numbers, relative to conventional warfare between armies and nations. I don’t believe there is any way, at a national level, to deal with this type of a pinprick threat and still remain a free society. I would prefer to let citizens be armed and defend themselves, even on airplanes. Airport security in the USA is a recent innovation. Until about 1972 or 73 there was no airport security or screening. You could walk onto a plane with a firearm completely undetected.

  4. The president has another political football coming down the pike. What to do with the new cadre of radical Islamists that will be captured in the spring offensive in Afghanistan. Will the president turn them over to the “corrupt” Afghan administration or will he expand our New Gitmo in Illinois? Another lose, lose proposition.

  5. Maginot Lines are never the answer, but it seems like every 3rd generation needs to discover that painful fact for themselves. What surprisingly slow learners our species is!

    By me the correct solution is, first, Jardinero’s solution, which is to encourage American citizens to bring their certificated weapons on board aircraft. Sure, a stray bullet might do some nastiness some time or other. Oh dear. But I suspect after the next 12 or 15 guys who shout Allahu Akhbar! before trying to light their shoes get drilled through the head about 8 seconds later, and CNN carries the footage of the corpse being hauled off the airliner while passengers high-five each other, the number of young Middle Eastern fools willing to volunteer for the mission will precipitously decline.

    Secondly, a vigorous Bush-style foreign policy that promises to beat the crap out of nation-states that harbor terrorists or encourage it as a matter of policy. Go and get them where they live.

  6. Jardinero, being as we were one working lighter from a major successful attack, counting on the enemy to continually fail by themselves is not a plan.

    Your first post and second post bear no relation to each other at all. Your second post has something of a sensible idea, even if you utterly disregard any other effects of terrorism besides initial deaths. No such reasoning existed in your first.

  7. This little tidbit may have escaped everybody, but the first place at which the terrorist was under US control was when the plane landed. The US does not screen passengers in Nigeria, especially those bound for the Netherlands, nor do we screen people in the Netherlands bound for the US. Those countries do the screening.

    As far as “lawyering up” get real. The guy confessed to everything in the damn hospital. We already know he went to Yemen thanks to his dad. He’s a suicide bomber, and by definition not expecting to get interrogated.

    More importantly, why in the world would we think he’d have some massive amount of intel? He’s a pawn. Al Queda would no more give him the keys to the kingdom then we would give nuclear launch codes to a private fresh out of boot camp.

    Whatever happened to “Keep Calm and Carry On?”

  8. John,

    In my first post I didn’t present any plans. In neither post did I say that we should “count on the enemy to continually fail” as you claim. So please don’t suggest I said something when I didn’t say it. In both posts I am asking the reader to consider the quality of the enemy and his ability to make war. The connection is subtle but it’s there.

  9. This little tidbit may have escaped everybody, but the first place at which the terrorist was under US control was when the plane landed.

    Er, no. A US-flagged carrier is under US authority once in international airspace, and any airplane is under US authority once it enters US territorial airspace. Secondly, the TSA sets the required screening standards for both US- and foreign-flagged carriers that arrive in the US. They may well be executed by foreign firms, but the standards are set, or could be set, by the TSA.

    You can’t seriously think that the US asserts no authority over airplanes until they actually land in the US, can you? I’m a little stunned if you do — that you might think sovereignty is in the area of authority over borders so weak, and yet in the area of authority over citizen bodies and wallets (in re health care) so strong. Doesn’t the mental logical consistency fuse threaten to blow?

  10. Carl Pham – yes, the US set requirements for screening. These screenings are executed by foreigners, operating under their law. Although in theory the US has authority on the flight once it clears foreign airspace, in practice we are relying on others to provide screening.

    There is a simple logical consistency in operation here – we control what happens inside our borders, other nations control what happens inside theirs.

  11. Well, the fact that the US didn’t revoke the terrorists visa, when it put him on a terrorist watch list, sort of invalidates Gerrib’s arguments completely. The US didn’t do all it could to prevent this guy from entering US borders. This is the folly, and the little tidbit that seems to escape some people.

    And foreigners can do what they want within their own nation’s borders, but if they don’t meet our security standards, then they shouldn’t be allowed to be ports of entry into the US. That’s just one way the US controls entry while a terrorist is still in another country. Another is to work with authorities of other nations to apprehend terrorist suspects. President Bush did pretty well in getting other nations to help in doing these sorts of things. Is there a suggestion that President Obama is impotent in this arena?

    More importantly, why in the world would we think he’d have some massive amount of intel?

    He didn’t make the bomb. He met the people that gave him the Yemeni contacts that did make the bomb and obtained the explosive material. He knows why he went to Nigeria first to start the round about trip to the US. He apparently knows of a few more people making attempts. He may even know of accomplice on the flight with him or in Denmark. With any luck, he may even know where in Yemen he picked up the explosives, that would be useful information.

    Heck, as I write this, they just mentioned on local news that the terrorist had travelled to Houston. Why did he do that? When was that? Before or after he was put on the terrorist watch list. If after, was his trip to Houston in relation to his business with Al Qaeda. They also point out he used websites to get instructions. What websites are those?

    There’s quite a bit of information to be gathered, and fair enough, it is being gathered even after lawyering up. But to suggest he doesn’t have useful intel is ignorant and unimaginative.

  12. Although in theory the US has authority on the flight once it clears foreign airspace, in practice we are relying on others to provide screening.

    In practice Chris, the United States enjoys nearly unlimited authority over airlines that want to do business to and from the United States, which means nearly any carrier other than regional puddle-jumpers. The US market utterly dwarfs any other world market. The US government could require Lufthansa to measure every male passenger’s dick size and write it on his forehead with a Sharpie, even on flights that neither took off nor landed in the United States — and they would, rather than lose the US market.

    If you’re making excuses for the TSA, they’re utterly threadbare. They have almost unlimited power — power is the one thing they do not lack. Intelligence, maybe, or courage, or foresight, or common sense. But not power.

  13. Here’s a good blog article detailing the points Carl and I are trying to make. What concerns me about this latest attempt is that there seems to be signs of the restoration of Gorelick’s wall. If not in practice (as in intended walls to prevent transfer of intel), then in incompetence of sharing data.

    And one problem that has never been resolved, and shows the problem with the current bureaucracy (that constant of the US government regardless of political ideology at the helm) way of thinking; read number 6 at the article. As long as TSA’s role is to look for dangerous things and not dangerous people, then individual rights will continue to be violated, while the result is ineffective security.

  14. Carl Pham – in practice the US market no longer dominates the world. There are all kinds of folks flying around who never visit the US.

    Leland – I have not and do not defend the decision to not revoke this guy’s visa. Yes, we do need to do a better job integrating databases.

    If any government bureaucrat can look at somebody and say “you’re a terrorist – off to Gitmo” then the Bill of Rights is a dead letter.

  15. In both posts I am asking the reader to consider the quality of the enemy and his ability to make war.

    Have you looked at the New York skyline lately? Anything somewhat different about it than, say ten years ago?

    If we count on luck, it will favor our enemies in the end.

  16. If any government bureaucrat can look at somebody and say “you’re a terrorist – off to Gitmo” then the Bill of Rights is a dead letter.

    I’d be happy with a government bureaucrat looking at somebody and saying “you’re not a US citizen, you don’t get the rights granted to US citizens”. The next step would then be “you’re a foreign national trying to overtly attack US citizens on US soil, which is an act of war, and you’ll be treated as an enemy combatant as described by international agreements for which the US is a party”.

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