It is interesting to juxtapose this week’s terrorist plot to bomb the Federal Reserve — a plot that never had a chance of succeeding — with the controversy over when the Obama administration figured out the Benghazi massacre was a preplanned terrorist attack.
The would-be Federal Reserve bomber, Quazi Mohammed Nafis, is a young ne’er-do-well who, according to his family in Bangladesh, was afraid of his own shadow and came to America strictly to study. There is no indication he ever had any terrorism training. In fact, the criminal complaint relates that he was hoping someday to get training from al Qaeda. He was obviously inspired by Islamist ideology in the U.S. (I’ll get to that in another post), but he was tactically incompetent. As you read the complaint, it becomes clear that he wants to do major damage to the United States, but he is too unschooled to ask basic operational questions, does not really know anything about bombs, and was roped in by the FBI because he couldn’t tell the difference between inert and explosive material — and didn’t have the sense to insist on testing a sample to make sure it would go boom.
Consider this: we now have nearly a 20-year track record of jihadist terror attacks and plots going back to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Here’s what we know: the Blind Sheik, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas always emphasized that para-military training was critical and maintained training camps at which aspiring jihadists were turned into competent jihadists — given instruction from experienced hands (many from the jihad campaigns in Afghanistan and Bosnia) in explosives, surveillance, close-combat, hijacking, kidnapping, etc. Moreover, the successful attacks – e.g., 1993 WTC, 1996 Khobar Towers, the 1998 U.S. embassies, the Cole, 9/11, and many post-9/11 operations against our troops (e.g., the Karbala killings) — all involved terrorists who had received training, and most were choreographed by knowledgable terrorist commanders who had come up through the training ranks.
Training does not guarantee success. Many who’ve received it have nevertheless failed to pull of their plots. But the lack of training virtually guarantees failure. Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen several cases of wannabes who had bought on to jihadist concepts and dreamed up spectacular attack plots; they failed to carry them off because they didn’t know what they were doing. I’m not suggesting that terrorism is quantum-physics, but neither is it amateur hour. Ambitious plots against hardened targets — even if they are not as secure as they should be — are not easy to pull off. They require know-how.
Which brings us back to Benghazi. The question is not when the administration figured out it was a pre-planned terrorist attack. It is whether any government official with a modicum of national-security experience could ever seriously have believed it was anything but a pre-planned terrorist attack. This was a coordinated operation over the course of a few hours against two separate targets (which the attackers knew to be related), carried out by teams of men armed with, and competent in the use of, high-powered weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades. This is not the sort of thing that could be executed by a gaggle of Mo six-packs who get a little too amped up at the movie protest — even if there had been such a protest (there was not).
The administration will no doubt find some sap in the intel community to take the fall over this, citing a garble in the communication chain or some such. But don’t be fooled. No intelligence agent could ever have believed Benghazi was a spontaneous eruption of anger — and that’s even if we didn’t know, as we now know, that the intel community was getting some information in real time and knew within a day exactly what had happened.
This was not an intelligence failure. It was an Obama policy failure. In a desperate attempt to obscure that fact with the election looming, the Obama administration made a political calculation that the movie narrative could be sold to their media allies, who in turn would sell it to the public. As it turns out, the story was too far-fetched and the public wasn’t buying.