As we near the ten-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 strikes, the Obama administration is stressing that the threat remains, but in a different form. In a speech at a Chamber of Commerce event yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said:
[T]he U.S. has a "layered system of security that would give us multiple ways to deter" an attack like the one a decade ago in which airplanes were weaponized. "What we see now is smaller plots," she said. "We are also seeing a rise of activities by individuals who are actually in the country, and they are acting by themselves and that kind of attack is the most difficult to prevent because there is nothing to intercept." Napolitano's comments echoed what President Obama said in an interview Tuesday in discussing the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11…. With the nation preparing to observe the 10th anniversary of hijacked airliners crashing in New York and Washington and in the Pennsylvania countryside, Obama said the government is in a state of heightened awareness. "The biggest concern we have right now is not the launching of a major terrorist operation, although that risk is always there," the president said. "The risk that we're especially concerned over right now is the lone wolf terrorist, somebody with a single weapon being able to carry out wide-scale massacres of the sort that we saw in Norway recently," he said. "You know, when you've got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it's a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators."
While it is nice that the administration is able to acknowledge that jihadis are going lone wolf—that the jihad has metastasized—this report is a reminder of the administration's failed policies, policies which in many ways led to the current situation, where it is no surprise that, a decade after the strikes of 9/11, "the government is [still] in a state of heightened awareness."
For starters, rather than once attempting to understand the ideology of jihad itself and its place in Islamic history and tradition—not to malign, but for proper context, to understand what one is up against—the administration, like the one before it, preferred to take the easy, politically-correct, way out: focus on formal organizations and people—al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, as the root source of the problem—while ignoring the jihadi elephant in the room.
Indeed, all evidence indicates that the focus remains on the tangible, the quantifiable—al-Qaeda—without wanting to look at the surrounding context which produces groups like it and even jihadi lone wolfs. In the CNN interview, "Obama said the government continues to monitor and gather information about potential terror plots, even though Al Qaeda's capabilities have been degraded." Note the ingrained "even though," as if the very demise of al-Qaeda, its total eradication, is naturally supposed to equate the demise of jihad, which is some 1400 years older than al-Qaeda.
And if ever there was talk on the context that fuels the jihad, it was always the idea that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East was to blame (regurgitating what the jihadis themselves were saying). Likewise, it was believed that terrorism was a "foreign" problem that could never infect American Muslims, as it has nothing to do with Islam.
Yet here is Napolitano saying that "We are also seeing a rise of activities by individuals who are actually in the country." More to the point, months earlier, Attorney General Eric Holder said that "the threat has changed … to worrying about people in the United States, American citizens — raised here, born here, and who for whatever reason, have decided that they are going to become radicalized and take up arms against the nation in which they were born."
None of this is surprising, considering that the Obama administration went out of its way to ban the use of accurate words—such as jihad and Islam from national security documents—thereby epistemologically undermining American discourse on the nature of the threat.
In short, Fort Hood style attacks—both the successful one of 2009 and the unsuccessful one from weeks ago—should have been expected. Expect more to come as the lone wolf jihad runs loose.
Raymond Ibrahim, an Islam-specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.