Jonah, your allegedly alleged reader’s observation on “clinical legalism” is just right. Putting aside the stuff that was just plain wrong (this guy’s an “isolated extremist” — oh, yeah?), the president’s remarks had a horrible desiccated complacency. “Alleged . . .” “suspect . . .” “charged . . .” — because this is no different from a punk holding up a gas station, right? In all their alleged allegedness, this administration has an allergy to the concept of war, and thus to the tools of war, including strategy and war aims. In essence, they’ve accepted a Fort Hood model for this challenge: every so often, something will happen and people will die, and we’ll seal off the crime scene and take the alleged suspect into alleged custody. But it’s reactive, and it cripples our ability to prevent the death of innocents.
There’s a difference between an alleged suspect (which is what he is is the president’s fantasy) and an enemy combatant (which is what he is in reality). If this were a war, we would question him about who he hooked up with in Yemen, who did he meet with in London, and maybe get a lead on attacks to come. Instead, the authorities, having issued the Knickerbomber a multi-entry visa, having permitted him to board the plane, and having failed to detect his incendiary unwear, now allow him to lawyer up and ensure that we’ll never know who he knew in Yemen or anywhere else.
This would be a big enough gamble in the best of circumstances. Up against the broader background Derb discusses, it makes disaster inevitable.