The empty black suit at war
The “empty black suit” is a distinct contemporary type discussed by Professor Joseph Kay in a notable article at VFR last year. The empty black suit shows up at work, has all the appurtenances of being a professional, and goes through the motions of doing his job, but he doesn’t actually do anything. He just fills space.
This describes Obama’s statement to the nation yesterday following his much hyped review of U.S. counterterrorism policies. He says he’s ordered this, and he’s directed that, he’s told the Director of Homeland Security to do this, and the Director of National Intelligence to do that. But it’s all empty motions intended to create the appearance that he’s on the job—the job of defending America from its enemies. None of it changes the fundamentally flawed approach (which Obama reaffirmed in his January 5 “connecting the dots” statement discussed by me here) that led to Abdul Mutallab’s being able to board Northwest 253 in Amsterdam.
And that approach is: we are only concerned about persons who we have reason to believe are planning or are in the process of committing a terrorist act. That criterion is too high. The mere fact that Mutallab was known to have left his family to join a jihadist group in Yemen, even in the absence of any specific information linking him to possible terrorism, should have been enough, at the least, to get him subjected to close scrutiny before he was able to board the plane. No further “connecting of dots,” aimed at showing him to be a terrorist, was necessary.
Here is Obama’s statement of what he’s learned the U.S. intelligence community did wrong: It’s all about process and paper pushing, not about substance:
First, although our intelligence community had learned a great deal about the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen—called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—that we knew that they sought to strike the United States and that they were recruiting operatives to do so—the intelligence community did not aggressively follow up on and prioritize particular streams of intelligence related to a possible attack against the homeland.As I said above, it’s still only actual terrorists, not adherents of jihad ideology, whom he’s seeking to prevent from entering the U.S. Because in Obama’s mind, not only is Islam not the problem, but Islamic jihadism is not the problem. Only actual terrorism is the problem.
As for Obama’s ever multiplying orders and directives, which I won’t quote here, they stink of PR. He’s using useless words to reassure people that something is being done, just as the ramped-up security measures in airports are useless gestures aimed at reassuring people that something is being done.
Here is the most notable passage in Obama’s statement yesterday, his “we’re at war” comment (and by the way, note the tone-deaf rip-off of Lincoln’s first inaugural, “Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection”):
Over the past two weeks, we’ve been reminded again of the challenge we face in protecting our country against a foe that is bent on our destruction. And while passions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let’s be clear about what this moment demands. We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.Obama says that the United States is at war with al Qaeda. This is a lie. How do I know it’s a lie?
If the United States were waging war on al Qaeda, then all members and agents of al Qaeda would be treated as enemies in war.
But Obama does not treat members of al Qaeda as enemies in war, even when they commit explicit acts of war against the United States.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an al Qaeda high-up who organized the greatest act of war against America since Pearl Harbor, is not being treated as an enemy combatant but as a criminal defendant, complete with Miranda rights and a lawyer. Abdul Mutallab, an al Qaeda agent who committed a (fortunately unsuccessful) act of war against America, is not being treated as an enemy combatant but as a criminal defendant, complete with Miranda rights and a lawyer.
So, Obama’s statement that we are “at war against al Qaeda” is as an out and out lie.
However, Obama’s failure to wage war against our enemies doesn’t stop with his treatment of jihad terrorists as ordinary criminals.
Since al Qaeda is not a single, discrete organization but rather a loose network sharing a common Islamic ideology, common Islamic identity, and common Islamic aim, namely a global caliphate under sharia law, if the U.S. were at war with al Qaeda, then any person who was associated with that network or who supported that aim would be regarded as an enemy, or at least (assuming he was not a U.S. citizen) as an enemy alien. Enemies and enemy aliens would not be allowed to enter the United States, they would not be allowed to travel or reside freely in the United States. They would be excluded, confined, or deported.
But of course Obama does not do any of these things. He only keeps our enemies from entering the United States if he has specific information that they are planning or carrying out a criminal act. And, needless to say, he does not designate non-citizen supporters of the al Qaeda ideology as enemy aliens and remove them from the United States. To the contrary, he reaches out and embraces all the co-religionists of al Qaeda.
Finally, he says this:
Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don’t hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. That is exactly what our adversaries want, and so long as I am President, we will never hand them that victory. We will define the character of our country, not some band of small men intent on killing innocent men, women and children.Really? Our enemies WANT us to hunker down and hide behind walls? Meaning, if we stopped allowing Muslims to enter America and began removing all believing Muslims from America, that’s what our Muslim enemies WANT us to do? That would make them the first warriors in history who WANT to be expelled from a land they have invaded and are in the process of conquering.
Paul K. writes:
I suspect that the Christmas Day attack did not provoke real anger in our president until he realized that it exposed his own fecklessness and incompetence. Humiliation begets rage among the Black-Empty-Suits of this world. Obama’s desire not to appear foolish and inept might lead him to take steps to secure the nation, except that he continues to indulge in wishful thinking about the Islamic world, as he demonstrates when he says:LA replies:
Yes, it is stunningly Bushian. Just like Bush, he cannot grant the moral and ideological reality of the enemy. They, the enemy, are nothing but a death cult, losers, “small men,” exactly as Bush and his lieutenants said. The idea that al Qaeda has a vision which is meaningful to hundreds of millions of Muslims, because, in fact, it expresses the core truth of Islam, cannot be recognized, because THAT would mean recognizing that Muslims are completely unlike us, which would mean the end of the liberal view in which everyone can get along in a borderless world.Paul Nachman writes:
You wrote:LA replies:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 08, 2010 07:32 AM | Send