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A New Paradigm for Counterterrorism

Andrew McCarthy at NRI’s 2015 Ideas Summit
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Editor’s Note: As part of National Review Institute’s End-of-Year Appeal, NRI fellows are sharing words of wisdom and inspiration. Today, Andrew C. McCarthy explains how NRI helps develop new ways of thinking about terrorism and security.

It is the season for giving, so I am joining my NRI-supported colleagues in asking our beloved readers to consider making a tax-deductible contribution to National Review Institute. The blunt facts are: NRI makes it possible for us to do what we do, and without you, there is no NRI.

Our times are tumultuous, not just in fractious policy debates but, more significantly, in the culture. Now more than ever, it is essential that we carry out the mission William F. Buckley Jr. fashioned for National Review: To be true to our conservative principles, to explain them with clarity, to apply them with fidelity, and to make them our compass no matter how troubled the times. Of course there are, and always will be, differences of opinion about how our principles are best advanced, about whether short-term tactical pursuits undermine long-term strategic objectives. It all begins and ends, though, with understanding and living our convictions, such that our day-to-day navigation through turbulence is never irreconcilable with our philosophical vision of a society that is both free and good. Bill Buckley founded National Review Institute as a non-profit to support that mission. And the past few years it has renewed its commitment to this mission with great success.

Today NRI fellows focus on a variety of issues, from religious liberty and free speech to the defense of Western civilization and rule of law. Our clarity about our priorities and our objectivity about the new administration, a combination of hope and skepticism, has enabled us to contribute to the debate in a meaningful way, on health care, tax reform, regulation, judicial appointments, foreign policy, national security — the panoply of pressing issues. We champion policymakers when they are right; we try to move them in a more conservative direction when they are on a wayward path

In just the past year, that has meant striving to provide clear-eyed analysis of the legal controversies that have dominated the news: The Mueller probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and the related and increasingly urgent questions about law enforcement’s disparate treatment of the investigations involving Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign, prompting our recent call to “Investigate the Investigators.”

Alarmingly, the past year has also ushered in a new phase of radical Islam’s challenge to the West. When I began doing national-security work as a prosecutor in the early 1990s, the World Trade Center had just been bombed, and the jihadist threat was transitioning from Iran-backed Hezbollah’s targeting of American military and government personnel overseas to ascendant al-Qaeda’s global jihad, including mass-murder attacks on American civilians here in our country. The ensuing decade saw a continuing series of attacks and plots on Americans at home and abroad, culminating in the 9/11 atrocities and a frustrating debate over whether terrorism was best seen as a law-enforcement problem fit for court prosecution or a national-security challenge best confronted by military and intelligence operations, with a significantly reduced role for the civilian courts.

Our work must tackle policy implications in the crossroads between law enforcement and war-fighting, between liberty and security.

That debate has continued for nearly 20 years because neither enforcement paradigm is a perfect fit — the enemy is not a criminal enterprise, but neither is it a traditional military foe. But now the nature of terrorism is changing yet again: shifting focus from large-scale attacks on symbols of American economic and political might (though such plots remain an ever-present danger) to crude operations — driving trucks into pedestrian plazas, detonating improvised explosives in mass-transit hubs. The new iteration of jihadist terrorism requires very little funding and training. That makes it all the harder to home in on likely attackers, and thus all the more imperative that our security agents focus on the one thing to which political correctness has made them willfully blind: sharia-supremacist ideology.

The new reality means our work must tackle policy implications in the crossroads between law enforcement and war-fighting, between liberty and security — such areas as immigration, detention, interrogation, intelligence collection, investigation, and trial of suspected terrorists and their support networks. For example, for years, I’ve been advocating that we move beyond the war-versus-crime debate and fashion a hybrid — a national-security court — that adopts the best of the military and civilian justice systems: protecting the national defense and classified information, enabling the intelligence-gathering that is vital in combating an enemy that strikes in stealth, but ensuring the commitment to due process that Americans rightly demand. The times we are living through demand that we consider new ways of doing things that are rooted in our constitutional ideals. Our enterprise continues to be a powerful platform for conveying that message.

Your support of NRI not only makes the message possible; it also lets us spread the message far and wide. We’ve been able to establish chapters across the country, steeping our fellows in the principles of liberty, limited-government constitutionalism, and peace through strength. We appear at forums and on campuses across the country to deliver our perspective, push it deeper into the mainstream, and counter the Left’s sway over the cultural tide.

On that score, NRI has established a Center for the Defense of Western Civilization, in which I have the honor of collaborating with the incomparable Victor Davis Hanson — as keen an expert on Western civilization as there is. We’re excited about the potential such a center has to make an impact in a time of rising international tensions and the manifest need to battle radical Islam ideologically — not just focus on its end-stage jihadism.

We’ve done a great deal this year, but there is so much more to do. To do it, we depend, as we always have, on our invaluable friends and our wonderful readers. We have to be in it together if we are going to be in it at all. So please give to the NRI appeal if you are in a position to do so. With the gratitude of a happy warrior, I wish you a happy, healthy New Year.

Discover what others are saying about NRI and why it merits your support. Rick Brookhiser explains the benefits to the conservative movement of NRI’s Regional Fellows Program. Kevin D. Williamson highlights NRI’s exceptional writer-training effort, better known as the William F. Buckley Fellowship in Political Journalism. Jay Nordlinger explains how important defending and advancing the Buckley Legacy is to NRI’s mission, David French explores NRI’s mission as a conservative institution in our shared culture, Jonah Goldberg looks at the breadth of NRI’s programs, and Kathryn Jean Lopez discusses NRI’s focus on the big issues that affect our society. And John O’Sullivan shares the inside story of how NRI was born, and how it flourishes.

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