U.S. Needs Offense to Match Defense

Friday, 08 Jan 2010 12:44 PM

By Andrea Tantaros

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President Obama approached the podium on Tuesday to let the nation know he returned from vacation and finally convened his security team for answers on how a man wearing a smoldering diaper almost blew up hundreds of people on Christmas Day. Obama stood at the podium, reading formulaically, and with a righteous indignation delivered a striking rebuke toward our intelligence community.

What did he expect?

While he's been apprehensive about acknowledging the current jihad, or holy war, against us, he's been waging his own on the U.S. intelligence community to appease his leftist base.

During his first year in office, Obama compromised the safety and effectiveness of the men and women in the field by declassifying and releasing long, confidential memos outlining many of our interrogation techniques used to question suspected terrorists. (Obama has repeatedly stated that he believes Guantanamo is used as propaganda in al-Qaida recruiting. But what about those memos?) He has also allowed his administration to move forward in gathering information that could lead to prosecuting CIA officials for torture, something he originally said he wouldn't do, but later, under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, reconsidered.

A preliminary report will be delivered to his desk, detailing how certain agencies failed to address, share or highlight the information they were given on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Expect the CIA, the agency under the most scrutiny, to catch the biggest black eye. It will be a matching shiner to the one House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave when she accused the CIA of giving her "inaccurate and incomplete information."

These charges are demoralizing blows, and the reports and investigations symbolize the approach of the Obama administration to terrorism: staid, backward-looking, largely passive, chock-full of blame-shifting and always on defense.

The President's security team blamed George Bush for Obama's inheriting the security measures that failed us. The left blamed Republicans and Dick Cheney for characterizing Obama as weak on national security policy. But Cheney is to Obama what Al Gore was to Bush — an annoying (but necessary) pest, and every time Cheney speaks out, it only creates more flies for the stink they're dropping. Now, Obama is blaming our intelligence agents.

The President's agenda as it relates to keeping us safe is based on a laundry list of our problems: Guantanamo, the CIA, advanced interrogation. What's missing is the acknowledgment that al-Qaida is a problem, one that Obama is committed to fighting and defeating.

His offense has, rightfully, consisted of escalating the war in Afghanistan. Obama also has ordered more drone attacks since taking office than Bush did during his entire two terms in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. But why, when he finally has the enemy in his possession, did he back off and treat him as if he were a U.S. citizen who stole a car stereo? It's a glaring contradiction.

This is a time where he can be, and is expected to be, tough on terrorists and brandish his security credentials, and yet he seems to be the apologist, or even worse — the professor. He doesn't want to take a hard line or make fighting radicals the hallmark of his tenure. He'd rather focus on what he wants to focus on: healthcare, climate change, immigration.

Ideologically, some say it's his marriage to a progressive dogma that has him hamstrung. But it's more complex than that. Obama's inexperience and academic background plays into his actions, or inaction. His time as a glorified social worker did nothing to test his mettle in lessons of war. His years at Harvard Law polluted his interpretation of the role of government and the Constitution as something that was intended to protect America's citizens, not those who seek to destroy them. His arrogance has caused him to ignore the methods and lessons of his predecessors, but permits him to get bogged down in the bureaucracy of things.

Liberals are mistakenly preoccupied with downplaying the threat of radical Islamic jihadism and streamlining the bureaucracy to make it more efficient with new cumbersome and misguided regulation. That focus on whether all the gears of the government meshed perfectly is nonsense; they never will.

But the president needs to operate within a different system of theory with an authoritative voice that builds up, not breaks down, the men and women on the front lines.

Obama may be a reluctant wartime president on matters of security policy, but being on defense means nothing without going on offense. America cannot be on perpetual duty, and we can't get where we need to be as a society by just playing defense; you've got to play both. And it can't be on our own.


andrea@andreatantaros.com

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