2016 Election • America • Defense of the West • Department of Homeland Security • Deterrence • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Obama • Religion of Peace • September 11 • Terrorism

The Bookends of Failure: President Obama Teaches What Not To Do

If a monument is to be created commemorating President Barack Obama’s anti-terrorism and foreign policy legacy, etched in marble above it should be the phrase: “What Not To Do—A Legacy of Failure.” Indeed, we now see in blinding light the eight year experiment in appeasement and abdication of leadership: more terrorism, more death.  The bookends of his presidency begin with his first interview as president, on an Arabic television network; his first acts as president in trying to close Guantanamo and in ending enhanced interrogation, theorizing such acts would “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great;” and his first tour commencing in Turkey and going through Saudi Arabia, ending in Egypt.

About Guantanamo, he would go on to say the prison was “a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause.” In Turkey, he would speak of America’s “darker days,” while also praising Recep Erdogan. In thinking Guantanamo helped al Qaeda in its recruitment, he never thought to look at the calendar that ran from the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing to the 1998 African Embassy Bombings to the 2000 USS Cole bombing, to the 2001 World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks—all when there was no Guantanamo prison.

While his tour through the Middle East in that first year did take him from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the curious country he did not visit, the one most aligned with American values, the tip of the spear in the war against terrorism, and the bull’s eye for most of it, was Israel. Then came his radio address to the Iranians, putting the people and the leadership on equal moral footing. Then the miraculous Iranian Green Revolution, where a unique organic uprising seeking American support against the mullahs arose—and President Obama famously abetted its equally quick death by saying he did not want the United States to “be seen as meddling.” Not content enough in appeasing the Mullahcracy, his State Department invited Iranian diplomats around the world to come to American embassies for hot dogs on July 4 of that year.  Along the way that year, the administration also publicized it would no longer speak of “the war on terror” or “jihadists.”

Someone or someones did not get all these memos and statements. Or, more likely, maybe they did: when they go low, we blame ourselves. That first year ended with the Fort Hood massacre and the attempted massacre that would have come from the successful bombing of Northwest Flight 253 over Detroit. “Attempted,” because then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said “the system worked.” It worked, alright, if the system was the chance, single, brave civilian passenger from the Netherlands who stopped the terrorist on the flight. The rest of the “system” let a known radical board a plane with a bomb.

Along the way we would get more and more diplomatic and rhetorical appeasement. This would include the non-application of the “not meddling” doctrine with allies like Hosni Mubarak and Benjamin Netanyahu. Or its non-application in Libya (what President Obama calls his “worst mistake.”). This would include comparing Islamic terrorism (in front of the U.N., no less) to the police doing their job in Ferguson, Missouri. And it would include comparing modern day Islamic terrorism to the centuries’ old Crusades and Christianity, saying we Americans should not be on “a high horse,” language quite familiar to fatwa readers, not so much to Americans.

Results? After Fort Hood, we would go on to see more Islamic terrorism not only abroad, with the rise of ISIS and Boko Haram, but here at home the terrible toll at the Boston Marathon, and in Chattanooga, San Bernardino, and Orlando. There was Nice, Berlin, Paris, Brussels. And so much more. And we ended 2016, back where we started, in Turkey: 39 dead in Istanbul. Meanwhile, Syria thought it could cross President Obama’s “red line,” and it was right–and it now looks like Beirut circa the 1980s. And Iraq, “sovereign, stable and self-reliant,” only five years ago, gets put back on Donald Trump’s plate.

For all the late honesty of the political class who admitted they got so much of the 2016 election wrong, let us now have similar honesty about what the policy of appeasement, American abdication, and self-blame has brought. In like a lamb in 2009, out like a charnel house.

America • Department of Homeland Security • Donald Trump • Immigration • Kris Kobach • Mike Pence • Republicans • Terrorism • Uncategorized

Kris Kobach for DHS Secretary

Kris_KobachThe Department of Homeland Security—the nation’s newest cabinet agency, founded only in 2002—is a mess. Everyone knows it. It’s taken formerly well-functioning agencies (e.g., FEMA) and made them worse, split up some (Customs) in ways that made them worse, combined others in ways that made them worse, and created perhaps the worst functioning federal agency of them all: the TSA.

More troubling, it combines two vastly different functions. On the one hand, DHS is supposed to bring under one roof all of our efforts to secure the border against unwanted traffic in goods and people. It’s also supposed to act as a domestic security force, much like a traditional European ministry of the interior. The two functions do not belong together.  The former is something any competent nation could do well if it wanted to. The latter is inherently difficult and murky in the best of circumstances. Moreover, most of the real power to do anything about domestic security rests with other agencies, particularly the intelligence community and the FBI. In doing its second job badly, DHS preoccupies the time and energy of senior management to not much effect beyond ensuring that they will do the Department’s first, and eminently do-able job, also badly. Add to that the fact the bipartisan ruling junta does not want the border secured and so does everything it can to undermine the Department and its morale.

It’s no wonder that almost no one of substance wants to run it. With one apparent exception.

Kris Kobach is arguably the smartest, best-informed and most vigilant immigration patriot in the country today. True, he’s no expert on domestic counter-terrorism, but that shouldn’t count against him. The Department he aspires to lead is lousy at it anyway. The best thing the administration can do to protect America from attack is to place sound people at the Defense Department, the intelligence community, and the National Security Council. The transition is off to a strong start.

The DHS Secretary doesn’t need to be a counter-terror whiz. He needs to be a barn-burner at the agency’s first and fundamental task: protecting the border. Which Kobach is.

Mickey Kaus’ analysis of the stakes is spot on. Trump, who is not seasoned in the ways of Washington, perhaps can be forgiven for not understanding—yet—what he’s up against. But surely Pence and Sessions know. The one-two punch of Sessions at Justice and Kobach at DHS will serve the political purpose of shoring up Trump’s base and the policy of purpose of delivering on his most fundamental promise.

Giving DHS to someone on the basis of loyalty or “diversity” or anything other than a true commitment to its core task would be a profound mistake—one that the President-elect, and his country, will pay for in the years and decades to come.

Kris Kobach for DHS.