Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Look Back at Candidate Obama's Approach to National Security

In light of the new message from Osama bin Laden taking credit for the Christmas Day terror attack, it's worth taking a moment to look back at the vow of Obama to catch him and Obama's own approach to national security.

In August 2007, candidate Obama chastised the Bush administration for taking their eye off the ball with regard to bin Laden:

We did not finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy, or launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists' base of support. We did not reaffirm our basic values, or secure our homeland. Instead, we got a color-coded politics of fear. Patriotism as the possession of one political party. The diplomacy of refusing to talk to other countries. A rigid 20th century ideology that insisted that the 21st century's stateless terrorism could be defeated through the invasion and occupation of a state. A deliberate strategy to misrepresent 9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Interesting. So in the one year that Obama has been in charge, what has he done to achieve this goal? He says we "did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy...". What new capabilities has he developed? Talking to them? Extending the open hand? That's worked out really well so far.

He says the Bush administration did not "launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists' base of support...". And Obama has? How's that new strategy working out, Mr. Obama? Drying up the terrorists' base of support? It doesn't seem that way when he continues to ignore the mistakes of the Bush administration and repeat them by releasing terrorists from Guantanamo to places like Somaliland, Algeria, Afghanistan and Yemen. With a recidivism rate of about 10%, I'd say that is NOT doing much to dry up the terrorists' base of support.

And what about that "color coded politics of fear"? Raising awareness of terror threat levels is not, or should not be, a political move. The terror threat levels were raised or lowered based on intelligence, not poll numbers. In Obama's case however, the lack of obvious concern about active terror threats, as evidenced by the criminalization of Abdulmutallab, or the failure to fully enact the HIG, does seem to work against Obama in the polls. His numbers are plummeting and his national security response, or lack thereof, is only one factor.

I wonder if Obama still believes that statement that we have misrepresented "9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11." Given that terrorists from all over the world have us in their sights, I wonder if he still really believes that Iraq was no threat.

Obama lambasted Bush in that speech, saying that al Qaeda in Iraq "didn't exist before our invasion," but what about Yemen now?

Obama said, "When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland."

Yet bin Laden is still sending terrorists to attack us. What went wrong? Really, I don't think al-Qaeda cares a damn about "our values." And "securing a more resilient homeland" didn't seem to be anywhere on the radar of this administration when Eric Holder single-handed made the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a common criminal without consulting anyone in the national security chain of command.

Amazingly, Obama vowed to strengthen our intelligence yet he has taken steps to practically decimate our intelligence community. His castration of the CIA has not served to "strengthen our intelligence."

He said:

I will also strengthen our intelligence. This is about more than an organizational chart. We need leadership that forces our agencies to share information, and leadership that never -- ever -- twists the facts to support bad policies. But we must also build our capacity to better collect and analyze information, and to carry out operations to disrupt terrorist plots and break up terrorist networks.

Has his administration twisted the facts to support bad policies? I'd say there are several bad policies in play here besides his war on the CIA beginning with the very decision to close Gitmo. Bad policy. Releasing dangerous detainees all around the world? Bad policy. Returning to a criminal justice approach to terrorism? Bad policy. Bringing terrorists to American soil for purposes of detention and/or trial? Bad policy.

What a difference it makes when you are actually president, I suppose. Obama spoke of eliminating illegal wire taps yet he supported the renewal of the Patriot Act.

All in all, I suppose things look somewhat different to him now that he's actually in office and has access to intelligence that he may not have had as a candidate. Given that, however, it seems he certainly should be tougher on national security than he currently is. Bin Laden released six messages in 2009. I don't think he's scared of us.

With bin Laden's promise that "God willing our attacks will continue" it is well past time for Obama to toughen up on national security and defense of our homeland. The handling of the Abdulmutallab affair was an embarrassment and a clear signal that the administration is not doing its job.

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