This week's column weighs in othe Great Cheney Debate: Are we less safe under Barack Obama?
Dick Cheney has been decrying the national security policies of the Obama administration -- closing Guantanamo Bay, ending enhanced interrogations of captured jihadists, even preparing to release some into the United States -- because the former vice president says they leave this country more vulnerable to a terrorist attack.
"That's my belief," Mr. Cheney told CBS' "Face the Nation" this week. "I think to the extent that those (Bush-era) policies were responsible for saving lives, that the administration is now trying to cancel those policies ... means in the future we're not going to have the same safeguards we've had for the last eight years."
I agree the new policies make us more vulnerable. Question is, do they make more vulnerable to what we know as "terrorist attack"? Strictly speaking, the answer is yes. But interpreting President Obama's policies in terms of more-vulnerable-to-terrorist-attack versus less-vulnerable-to-terrorist-attack is the same superficial thinking that has informed our negligently deficient security policies since 9/11.
Consider this: What terrorist with even a rudimentary notion of strategy would want to strike at Washington, D.C., for example, so long as Barack Hussein Obama is in power? From Day One of the Obama White House, we've seen a steady elevation of the Islamic world, from the administration's repeated mantra of "mutual respect" to its pattern of Islam-first in presidential phone calls (No. 1 went to the PA), interviews (No. 1 went to Al-Arabiyya TV), and audiences (reports indicate unprecedented snubbing of Israeli leaders to date). We've also seen what that same terrorist might well interpret as a succession of Islamic symbolism so laughably blatant as to be either jaw-dropping coincidence or overt messaging. I refer to Candidate Obama saying he'd been to "all 57 states" (the OIC -- Organization of the Islamic Conference -- has 57 member states); President Obama elaborating on an economic policy containing "five pillars" (Islam has five "pillars"); and calling for a new "foundation" (Al Qaeda may be translated as "the foundation"). Hawaii's recently passed "Islam Day" (Sept. 29) somehow deserves mention in passing if only for the state's coincidental status as the president's claimed birthplace.
On a more concrete plane of political existence, there's also the Obama administration's policy of sharpening its knives to "settle" Arab-Islamic scores with Israel as interpreted by the Israel-hostile National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones -- an appetizing prospect to any jihadist. Then there's President Obama's personal Muslim outreach efforts that will soon take him to Egypt for yet another speech from and to the Islamic world, his first having been earlier this spring in Turkey.
The rogue operator, of course, can strike anywhere, anytime. But as far as organized jihadist networks go, Obama's heavy-breathing courtship of the Islamic world would seem to avert the kind of out-and-out attack that could only interrupt America's ongoing capitulations to Islamic interests. All President Obama has to do to keep us safe is keep capitulating.
Physically safer, then, the fact is we remain in existential danger. But it's the same existential danger that the Bush administration failed to protect us against, and that the Obama administration is now failing to protect us against: the threat to liberty posed by unchecked spread of Islamic law (Sharia) across the Western world. Since this is the ultimate goal of global jihadist networks and, as poll data tell us, significant sectors of non-terrorist Muslim society alike, you would think this key ideological rationale of the post-9/11 world would have been explained, debated and analyzed for the American people even as its imperatives shaped and drove policy.
But no. Lo, these many years after 9/11, Islamization remains the veiled elephant in the room. Which is why Dick Cheney's current security lament rings hollow. Yes, the Bush administration went to (costly and ill-conceived) war, detained jihadists in a jail in Guantanamo Bay (run very much according to Islamic law) and even waterboarded three dirtbags along the way. But the Bush team never, ever, ever provided the American people with a defense or even a rationale against the liberty-destructive impact of creeping Sharia. The Bush administration's response to Islam's war on the West was strictly military even as it simultaneously engaged in a self-deception campaign aimed at attesting to the harmlessness of this same Islamic ideology.
Poor America. The Clinton administration treated jihadists like criminals; the Bush administration treated them like military targets; and the Obama administration treats them like a new constituency to be appeased through speeches and other political appeals. None of these administrations, however, has ever protected the country against the spread -- through violence against civilians, obscene infusions of petrodollars and swelling demographics -- of their poisonous ideology.