Politics & Policy

Countering Islamist Terror Requires a Strategy, Not Denial

Police guard the scene of one of the bombings in New York City, September 18, 2016. (Reuters photo: Rashid Umar Abbasi)

On Saturday evening, a bomb packed with metal shrapnel exploded in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea, injuring 29 people, eleven hours after an explosion in Seaside Park, N.J., along the route of a planned Marine Corps charity run. Both bombings — and at least two other attempts, one in Manhattan and one in Elizabeth, N.J. — appear to be the work of Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old naturalized citizen from Afghanistan.

The sequence of events, culminating in Rahami’s capture on Monday morning, has coincided with liberal attempts to make the weekend’s goings-on anything other than what they obviously are: Islamic terrorism. On Saturday night, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio called the bombing “an intentional act,” making his own contribution to the roll of Obama-era euphemisms (cf. “man-caused disaster” and “workplace violence”), while on Monday, news that Rahami may not have acted alone prompted a CNN terrorism expert (we use that word advisedly) to propose that “two or three lone wolves may have gotten together.”

We do not yet know much about Ahmad Rahami, but we know a great deal about Islamic terrorism in the United States, on account of a growing catalogue of horrors — Boston, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Orlando, etc. — and it’s almost certain that Rahami was hoping to stake out a place on that list: According to law enforcement, he traveled to Afghanistan multiple times in recent years, and acquaintances told the New York Times that he had changed dramatically following a trip four years ago. That Rahami failed to do more damage was largely a matter of incompetence and luck. (It’s worth keeping in mind, too, that this is not the first time that New York City has dodged a deadly bombing. In 2010, a car bomb planted in Times Square by Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistan native, ignited but failed to explode.)

Liberals refuse to acknowledge that the United States faces a deadly threat grounded in a distinct ideology. Terrorism is not an expression of frustration at a lack of economic opportunity; Ahmad Rahami was not “acting out” because he couldn’t score a position at the GAP. Terrorism is violence intended to subvert the existing political order, and, in the case of people such as Rahami, to replace it with the political framework required by supremacist Islam. Acknowledging this fact does not require condemning Islam as such; it simply requires acknowledging that there is a strain of Islam, with broad appeal today, that opposes the American way of life.

Our policymaking should be designed around this recognition. Instead, liberal leaders have been hampering counterterror efforts. The Obama administration, incapable of uttering the phrase “Islamic terror,” has drawn down our intelligence efforts at home and abroad, while smearing police departments across the country as racist. Meanwhile, in New York City, Mayor de Blasio caved to the demands of Islamist activists earlier this year and ordered the NYPD to stop using a report that helped officers identify individuals who might be considering terrorism. Far from encouraging profiling of Muslims, the report helped investigators make the distinctions that are crucial to preempting acts of terror.

#related#Restoring these tools is one necessity. Another is reforming our immigration laws to better screen out unsavory characters. It’s a grim coincidence that, as we learn about Ahmad Rahami, we also discover that in recent years the Department of Homeland Security has mistakenly granted citizenship to more than 850 immigrants from “special interest” countries — those with national-security implications or with high rates of immigration fraud. Combine government incompetence with government inanity — for example, the years-long internal policy prohibiting immigration officials from reviewing immigration applicants’ social-media accounts — and the likely consequences are all too clear. In fact, the results of our thoughtless immigration policies were on display not only in New York City on Saturday night, but also halfway across the country, in St. Cloud, Minn., where 22-year-old Dahir A. Adan, born in Kenya but of Somali extraction and raised in the U.S., stabbed nine people at a local shopping mall before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer. Inroads into Minnesota’s Somali diaspora by both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State have been widely reported, and should serve as a warning going forward. Those seeking entry to the United States should face serious scrutiny; it’s not “xenophobic” to prefer applicants who embrace American ideals.

That no one was killed in any of this weekend’s attacks is a minor miracle. But the adherents of Islamism are many, and dedicated, and they’ll try again. It’s long past time for a coherent, coordinated, aggressive strategy to root them out before they can do so.

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