How “man-caused disasters” replaced Islamist terrorism in the Obama lexicon.
by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
In Star Trek lore, the Borg was a collective of servile drone operatives that sought to assimilate other species into its “hive mind.”
Something akin to that creepy groupthink arose when the Obama administration took power and sought to reformulate the so-called war on terror. Almost immediately, Obama operatives suggested that radical Islamists were no more likely than any other group to commit acts of terrorism. In fact, the very idea of terrorism — not to mention a war against it — was supposedly a Bush-administration construct unfairly aimed at Muslims.
Obama apparently sincerely believed that there was no intrinsic connection between Islamism and terror; or, if there was, Islamic radicalism was no more dangerous than right-wing or supposedly Christian-inspired terror. Or if Islamic radicalism did arise, it might be mitigated by multicultural sympathy and outreach, mostly by contextualizing the violence as an inevitable result of prior Western culpability.
Precisely because the Bush-Cheney protocols had thwarted over 40 post-9/11 Islamist plots, Senator Obama had the latitude, in 2008, to campaign for the presidency on the premise that these measures were both unlawful and superfluous. After he became president and learned of their utility — and assumed the political responsibility for the consequences of abandoning his effective anti-terrorism inheritance — Obama squared the circle of embracing or expanding all the elements of the war against terror by politically correct euphemism.
The result has been that ever since 2009, various members of the administration collective have sought, each according to his station, to bring us into the network of not associating Islamism with terror. And the Borg have certainly been diverse, as all sorts of political appointees, opportunists, and career officers plugged themselves into the hive. Obama may have killed ten times as many suspected Muslim terrorists by drone as did Bush, but we were to assume that the fact that there were no Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist victims of Hellfire missiles was irrelevant.
Shortly after assuming office as the head of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano associated the prior “war on terror” with a “politics of fear”: “In my speech, although I did not use the word ‘terrorism,’ I referred to ‘man-caused’ disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.” Again, one wishes to ask her how many Christians have been targeted by Obama-administration Predator drones.
Various members of the Defense Department soon were plugged into the new narrative of “this administration” and, as good automatons, were eager to spread the Borg directives. A memo sent by the Defense Department’s security office to Pentagon staff members read, “This administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror.’ Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’”
After the Fort Hood shootings, the Defense Department characterized the murders as “workplace violence,” despite the known fact that Major Hasan had been interviewed by the FBI because of his correspondence with the radical imam Anwar al-Awlaki, and even though he yelled “Allahu Akbar!” as he killed twelve soldiers and one civilian and wounded more than 30 others. The military was absorbed into the non-Islamic groupthink to such a degree that Army Chief of Staff George Casey editorialized of the mass murder of his soldiers: “Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.” Dismantling the “diversity program” would be worse than the slaughter at Fort Hood? These days our martyrs are to die not on the altar of freedom, but on the altar of diversity?
The hive thinking quickly spread throughout the Obama administration’s intelligence apparat, as even those who once worked for George W. Bush and, in fact, had been deeply embedded in the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism efforts were drawn into the Borg — quite willingly and for careerist reasons. Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s long history of Islamist-inspired violence, and its decades-long anti-American efforts, James Clapper, director of national intelligence (who had worked for the Bush administration and defended its launching the Iraq War by claiming that Saddam Hussein had sent his WMD stockpiles to Syria on the eve of the American invasion), offered an absurd illustration of hive thinking: “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”
John Brennan — who, like Clapper, in his pre-Borg days both worked in the Bush administration and was criticized for his anti-Islamic-terrorism zealotry (among other things, for supposedly promoting enhanced interrogations in Guantanamo of the now-politically-incorrect category of “enemy combatants”) — also was rewired when he became Obama’s counter-terrorism advisor. Soon he duly opined of the now-taboo idea of jihadism, “Jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam meaning to purify oneself or one’s community.” Apparently the Tsarnaevs got a bit out of hand as they were purifying themselves in their holy struggle on the streets of Boston.
Sometimes the Borg drew in those well outside the military, intelligence, and national-security communities. According to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, when President Obama set out the “foremost” task of NASA, it had nothing to do with space exploration. Rather, the president “wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science . . . and math and engineering.” I think the Borg logic here is something like the following: Thanks to the legacy of Averroes, America can still get to Mars — and thanks to our recognition of that debt, the Tsarnaevs and Hasans of the world will “feel good” and are going to celebrate diversity rather than kill lots of innocent people.
These examples of the Borg could be vastly expanded, from Homeland Security’s warning of future violence not from Muslim males but rather from “right-wing extremism” — emanating from returning war veterans and anti-abortion activists — to the mandatory substitution of “militant extremism” and “violent extremism” for “Islamic extremism.”
When so many in government have been recircuited into the hive, it is no surprise that the FBI in the field has dropped its proper focus on militant Islam, or that the thug Vladimir Putin proved more helpful than did our own FBI and CIA directors in the Tsarnaev case. After all, the FBI had interviewed, but not detained, a number of men who later proved to be Islamic terrorists, such as the Tsarnaevs, Nidal Hasan, Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, and David Coleman Headley. One wonders what common complaint or malady these subjects shared — anti-abortion zealotry, tax resistance, homophobia, secret tea-party sympathies, several tours in Anbar Province, nativist anger at illegal immigrants, or simple head injuries?
What will break up the Borg? Tragically, it may take another Boston-style bombing to send enough rogue voltage through the system to explode the circuitry and free the drones from the hive.
NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His The Savior Generals will appear next month from Bloomsbury Books.