I think we will see some radical changes from the Obama administration very rapidly. When a Nigerian national, with a history of radical Islamic sympathies, previously reported to U.S. authorities by his father as a threat to America, buys a one-way ticket with cash, has no check-in luggage, previously was denied a British visa, boards a plane easily, and is prevented only by a courageous tourist from murdering over 300 innocents — and when all that is characterized as the system working like “clockwork” — well, something is terribly wrong. We should see such a threat not as a man-made disaster, but an act of war, in which an enemy has planted a series of human IEDs with the intention of killing hundreds of innocents and destroying a trillion-dollar airline industry vital to the commerce and very health of the West.
And a larger problem with our reaction is the context. This latest threat comes amid a climate of “overseas contingency operations” and “man-made disasters,” the closing of Guantanamo with no plans to deal with the over 100 Yemeni suspected terrorists currently detained there, and the public trial in New York of the confessed architect of 9/11. If millions of America find all this quite dangerous — in no small part due to the impression it creates for our enemies — then just perhaps radical Islamists sense American regret and remorse over our past eight years of muscular efforts that prevented another attack, and thus a new chance to find a route to another 9/11.
I think KSM’s trial will be Guantanamoized — that is, relegated to occasional boilerplate anti-Bush partisan rhetoric with little real follow-up — since in the present climate a circus trial would be political suicide.
Secretary Napolitano will be praised to the skies and transferred; the problem is not her nonchalant comments after the averted attack, but a long series of statements that suggests she does not look at terror empirically, but rather through a political prism intended to please the new general climate in Washington.
I think the president will have to cool the Al Arabiya interview motifs, the Cairo meae culpae, the bowing to Saudi royals, the anti-Bush caricatures of prior anti-terrorism policies, and instead begin to speak of the threat from radical homicidal Muslims in terms of a military challenge rather than an interesting civil-liberties debate.
So I think we will see an end to “Bush did it,” since that trope is already turning ironic in the sense that Bush spoke out against the Ahmadinejad regime and was clearly on the side of its dissidents, his caricatured protocols not only kept us safe but in part were quietly adopted by the Obama administration, and the war in Iraq has pretty much quieted down. Demonizing Bush as the architect of an unnecessary counterterrorism response in the present climate is nothing short of a political boomerang.