Does Terrorism Pose An Existential Threat To The U.S.?

By Sal Bommarito

Does terrorism pose an existential threat to America? An honest answer to this question would enable our leaders to write effective policies that would protect us from those elements that wish us harm. The security of America should be the most important concern of the president and our leaders, not the feelings of those who might be insulted by actions to ensure our safety.

A few days ago, President Obama indicated that terrorism does not existentially endanger the homeland. I believe he meant that it would not be possible for a terrorist organization to attack the homeland and do significant damage. Based upon history, Obama’s position is indefensible.

A band of terrorists commandeered commercial aircraft in 2001 using box cutters and flew them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The destabilization of the U.S. after these events was horrific, and we are still feeling the effects to this day. So, if the president believes our reaction to terrorism globally should be muted lest we offend one group or another, or for any other reason, I strongly disagree.

What about Pearl Harbor and 9/11? Should the U.S. have declared war against Japan after that fateful day in December 1941? And, was an invasion of Afghanistan an appropriate response to the Al Qaeda treachery in 2001?

The former event is clear-cut. Over three hundred Japanese planes attacked our homeland and killed over 2,400 Americans in an effort to destroy a U.S. naval base in Hawaii. Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged Congress to declare war on Japan, and the rest is history.

Al Qaeda terrorists planned and executed an attack on U.S. soil that killed over 2,700 innocent Americans. Shortly thereafter, President Bush authorized the invasion of Afghanistan, the nation that harbored Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11. Did 9/11 warrant such a bold reaction from the president? Before you answer, keep in mind that the conflict has continued for more than a decade, over 2,300 soldiers have been killed in action and the price tag has exceeded $650 billion.

In retrospect, the Afghan response seems excessive, especially considering the cost in blood and treasure. But, the action severely impaired Al Qaeda (for a time) and could very well have prevented other similar incidents. George Bush did not hesitate. He believed(s) terror does represent an existential threat to America, and he responded accordingly.

Radical Islamists have proven that they are willing to die for their warped ideology, one that endorses the murder of innocent people. And so, it is feasible that one day a suicide bomber armed with a small nuclear weapon could kill thousands of non-believers on the orders of a crazed cleric.

Is the possibility of such an act of terror an existential threat to America? I suppose it depends upon how many people are murdered and whether such an atrocity would destabilize the U.S. I believe the odds of a nuclear attack and its potential aftermath absolutely qualify it as an existential threat.

You may glean from my words that I am supportive of draconian measures to protect the homeland. Political correctness and hypersensitivity about civil liberties do not move me. Moreover, I would be prepared to accept increased surveillance personally if it increased the odds of preempting an attack on America.

The preponderance of troublemakers consists of either Arabs, or westerners who travel to Middle East hot spots to be trained and brainwashed. The response to this is clear. Our authorities must close our borders to those (citizens and non-citizens) trying to enter the U.S. after traveling to places fraught with radical Islamists. This is not a tactic that will be looked upon favorably by many, but it will mitigate some risks affiliated with lone wolves.

Additionally, the U.S. should end all student visas from the Middle East along with work permits unless credible companies, schools and individuals sponsor these travelers.

Finally, profiling at our borders is critical. When are we going to give TSA officers the training necessary to identify potential troublemakers?

These actions would likely create quite a stir. Nevertheless, the U.S. should take reasonable steps to amp up its defenses against terrorist threats.

Middle East Predictions: ISIS, Civil War, Terrorism

By Sal Bommarito

The prospects for peace in the Middle East are not favorable in the near future. The ISIS conflict and several other ongoing problems will continue to plague the Arab world during the next year. This essay will examine some of the more pressing issues and their effect on the geopolitical landscape.

 

The ISIS caliphate will begin to take shape as hostilities wane between ISIS and its enemies. It will be a monumental achievement for the interlopers to establish a new nation on stolen ground. The brutality of ISIS will not subside. In an effort to solidify its dominance, ISIS will execute opponents as well as non-Sunni Arabs. These actions will serve to exacerbate the refugee crisis and increase the number of displaced Arabs.

 

The immigration of refugees to countries neighboring Syria, including Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, will create dire circumstances for the lost souls and for the countries that have been so receptive to those in need. Refugees will encounter worsening living conditions and be ostracized by citizens of countries to which they immigrated. It is likely that thousands will perish from starvation, cold weather, unsanitary conditions and genocide.

 

The coalition’s plan to train and arm Iraqi soldiers and moderate rebels in Syria will be unsuccessful. This contingency will create a stalemate if the U.S. does not send ground troops. Ground force support of bombing operations is critical as ISIS fighters fortify their positions in populated areas. Pilots have not been able to identify and destroy targets without experienced controllers on the ground.

 

At some point, the U.S. will be forced to abandon its objective to destroy ISIS. There is no reason to expect that President Obama will change his battle plan during the final two years of his administration, even if Congress petitions him to do so.

 

The extraction of U.S. forces from the region is a significant goal of the Obama administration. This coupled with resistance of Americans against ground troop utilization should ensure another unsuccessful American military escapade.

 

Iraq will continue to be a battleground where Shiite government forces encounter persistent Sunni opposition and ISIS fighters. The current leader of Iraq will eventually cave into hard line pressure and increase the oppression of Sunnis not under the control of the ISIS caliphate.

 

The Shiite/Sunni feud will escalate throughout the region as each sect employs insurgents to destabilize nations governed by the other sect. Yemen is the latest victim, where Shiite fighters have deposed Sunni leadership.

 

The consensus among nations determined to dethrone Bashar al-Assad of Syria will dissipate as domestic conditions in each Arab country worsen. The U.S. has already deferred its earlier objective to topple Assad, so he will survive for the time being. Iran must deal with western sanctions and oil-inspired economic instability, so it will be diverted. Turkey has a gargantuan refugee problem that is taxing its financial condition and a growing Kurdish push for independence. The only state that will likely pressure Assad is Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, Syria will continue to be a killing field as ISIS protects its gains and Syrian rebels battle against Assad.

 

Iran will not be able to negotiate a deal with the U.S. to produce a nuclear weapon. The U.S. Congress is going to resist any inane deal that would make the Middle East more dangerous and encourage others to develop or buy a nuclear weapon.

 

Saudi Arabia will be the only country with relatively stable conditions. Low oil prices will decrease its revenues, but it has significant monetary assets on hand. The inability of Iran to develop a nuclear weapon will be a great relief to the Saudis. The new king will attempt to increase his country’s influence by bribing other nations and unleashing Sunni insurgents into Shiite countries.

 

The big question relates to terrorism. Will all the upheaval in the Middle East create new problems for the west? Will ISIS encourage new lone wolf atrocities throughout the world? Is global terror on the rise and being encouraged by ISIS’ success? Will ISIS refocus on building a new nation based upon terror, cruelty and fanatical religious ideology?

 

Terrorism: France, Belgium And Where Next?

By Sal Bommarito

Governments throughout the world are unsure how to combat the rash of attacks sponsored by ISIS, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. The latest situation just occurred in Belgium on the heels of Charlie Hebdo in France. The police thwarted an operation, killed two and wounded a third would be perpetrator according to reports. ISIS allegedly trained the terrorists. This latest plot foretells of more lone wolf intrigue in Europe and possibly the U.S.

 

Terrorist events appear to be linked. The West and non-Muslims are engaged in a covert war with radical Islamists, in which innocent people are being targeted. To make matters worse, jihadists from the Middle East are being supported and supplemented by western nationals who are being trained/brainwashed in Syria, Yemen and nearby environs.

 

Security officials are at a loss about how to deal with this growing phenomenon. My suggestion is to fight fire with fire. Extraordinary intelligence gathering and draconian responses to threats should include confiscation of passports and a halt to the return of travelers from hot spots in the Middle East.

 

In the days of red alerts at American airports, millions of travelers were inconvenienced and subjected to invasive searches in an effort to head off any plots to attack aircraft. No one was immune; every one was checked to ensure the skies were safe. It is this type of focus that is needed at every point of entry into the U.S. Police and military organizations should be rounding up people on watch lists along with suspicious foreign students and visitors from the Middle East. In fact, our borders should be temporarily shut down to visitors from dangerous places globally.

 

The days of stop and frisk, profiling and aggressive observation are back. The result of not being more diligent, even if we hurt some people’s feelings, will be more attacks. Political correctness needs to end.

 

Attackers are of two types- Middle Eastern nationals entering the country as students or for sham business purposes, and western nationals that have enlisted with jihadist groups to create havoc in their homes states. These groups should be profiled, harassed and observed.

 

Any westerners traveling to Syria or Yemen or any other dangerous place should not be granted visas and not allowed back into the U.S. if they violate any regulations. The problems are at our gateways. Security needs to be bolstered.

 

All congregations of persons that are suspected of plotting against any country should be monitored closely. If they are peaceful, authorities can apologize after the fact. No groups should get a pass without scrutiny.

 

Terrorists are turning our world upside down. We are all living in fear of young, inexperienced troublemakers. Our police and military capabilities are surely strong enough to protect us from lone wolves and sociopaths from the Middle East. Authorities must be aggressive to protect America.

Security At The Expense Of Civil Liberties

By Sal Bommarito

What should Americans expect from their government? Without a doubt, security is the most important service provided by federal, state and local officials. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, living in America has become more dangerous, so much so that the tradeoff between civil liberty and security must be recalibrated.

 

George W. Bush’s response to 9/11 was to declare war on those who perpetrated the greatest incursion on American soil since Pearl Harbor. All avenues were available to bring the terrorists to justice, or to their Maker. The citizens of the U.S. were totally supportive of their leader, and a great spirit of nationalism overwhelmed the country. Since the attacks, a false sense of security has evolved because terrorist events have not been so prevalent domestically. The hypersensitivity of 2001 has turned to ambivalence, and the left has orchestrated a push for greater emphasis of civil liberty at the expense of security.

 

I suppose it is human nature to overreact in crisis and underreact when conditions are benign. Unfortunately, the current president has led the charge towards civil liberty while the threat level increased; frankly, his response to terror has been tepid and America is more vulnerable than ever.

 

Radical Islamists are the true perpetrators of terrorism. They have proven to be resilient and an attractive alternative to disenfranchised young people throughout the world. Social media enables the evildoers to make contact with those who have little to live for. The result has been deadly bombings in peaceful urban places like Boston and vicious attacks on any group who dares to challenge the supremacy of Islam like Charlie Hebdo.

 

The U.S. greatly increased the status of jihadists by taking a tepid role in the ISIS war enabling a rag tag group of malcontents to control vast areas in Iraq and Syria. This has exacerbated the terrorist situation exponentially as ISIS has attained mythical status throughout the world, which has been a boon to recruitment of fighters.

 

The U.S. cannot control what happens in every place around the world. Yet, it can take actions domestically and internationally to thwart attempts to export terror to America. Civil liberty fanatics have done us all a disservice by pushing back against sensible and effective ways to control the forces that want to destroy our culture. Lies about the ultimate benefits of tight security and the intelligence available from aggressive interrogations have created an untenable situation. We have effectively yielded to those who think that security is a dirty word.

 

The nagging question is whether western governments including the U.S. are doing everything possible to prevent terrorist attacks; not responding to terrorist threats is a recipe for disaster. My answer is no because there is an over concern about liberty at the expense of security. This is exacerbated by an aversion towards identifying the real enemy, radical Islam. America should not be hesitant in recognizing this fact and acting to protect itself even if innocent Muslims are insulted by this not so insightful realization.

 

Frankly, the response of peaceful Muslims in response to atrocities worldwide has fallen far short of what we should expect from a peace-loving group. Condemnation of terror by the Muslim community should be loud and clear. Is it possible that are they afraid of a backlash from the radical elements in their own communities? Even worse, some Americans are beginning to think that moderate Muslims are in favor of violent protest and terror operations even if they do not play a direct role.

 

It is time for the west to protect innocent people at any cost. Peaceful nations should not continue to turn away form the obvious places that foment havoc, death and fear. Political correctness does not matter when uncivilized jihadists are slaughtering innocents. Civil liberties are not relevant when there is a backpack near you loaded with explosives and shrapnel like in Boston, or when free speech is attacked in Paris. People died and families were ruined in each of these events. We can no longer make excuses for the organizations that breed such contempt for human life.

 

Our nation needs to adopt the Bush worldview relating to terrorism. As it turns out, the president was ahead of his time recognizing the true potential of radical Islam. Americans need to sacrifice some privacy, endorse systematic data gathering, approve of long-term imprisonment and interrogation (short of torture), limit immigration and visits by people from certain parts of the world and institute many other restrictions in the interest of protecting our way of life.

Charlie Hebdo: The Civil Liberties vs. Security Debate Revisited

By Sal Bommarito

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, it is reasonable to rethink America’s attitude towards civil liberties and security. The Paris event was so dramatic and brazen that many people around the world who have moved left on this issue since the 9/11 attacks may now be amenable to giving up some privacy if it helps to prevent similar inhumanities prospectively.

 

This subject is extraordinarily sensitive to people in America and around the world. It is a debate that will likely ebb and flow as terrorism increases throughout the world. My initial response to recent terrorist activity is that many western nations have overemphasized civil liberties at the expense of ample security. And, political correctness towards the Muslim community is increasing exponentially the risk of future attacks.

 

Before the liberals and libertarians jump out of their skin, I should indicate that I am not in favor of torture, but have no problem with aggressive interrogation, especially when innocent lives are at stake. I find it hypocritical that these techniques and the application of capital punishment for crimes against humanity are any different than unleashing drone strikes on “suspected” terrorist enclaves that always seem to involve innocent bystanders.

 

Also, I am not indicting the entire Islamic world for the deeds of a small group of them. Yet, radical Muslims, some of whom preach their warped brand of religion in the U.S. and other western countries, are allegedly participating in horrific acts.

 

It is unsettling that very few Muslim leaders publicly condemn acts of violence against innocents. This behavior can only be based upon one of two things: either these leaders are frightened by the more radical elements of their communities, which causes them to be silent, or they implicitly favor violent protest against the west. This being the case, I think that not targeting suspected terrorist activity by clerics is negligent; we can no longer bow to political correctness when it comes to the security of our nation.

 

During the multi-year debate about privacy, I often wondered why some Americans are so sensitive about surveillance of telephone calls, emails, and tweets, for cause. Daily, Americans initiate billions of the aforementioned. It would be impossible for the authorities to sift through even a small percentage of these communication events. Specific targets based upon probable cause are the only ones investigated. Even morons who document their illegal activities or marital indiscretions on the Internet have little to worry about.

 

I believe terrorists should be treated differently than criminals. Terrorism is an act that involves inflicting death and/or harm on innocent people by non-Americans or Americans trained by outsiders. Non-citizens and those trained by foreign groups should be subjected to capital punishment for their crimes. Individuals like the surviving Boston Marathon bomber should not have an opportunity to spend the rest of his live in jail; he should be dispensed with quickly. For the record, I have been against capital punishment for many years, but experienced a change of heart after so many terrorist atrocities.

 

The most sensitive issue is the profiling of Muslims by law enforcement officials. If we assume that a greater and greater amount of violent behavior is being encouraged in Muslim places of worship, it makes sense to observe the actions of suspicious Muslims. America cannot allow any organization or religion to foment violence against its citizens. If the facts show that mosques or temples or churches are places where individuals conspire against America, they should be observed and prosecuted.

 

The alternative to greater security and surveillance is a greater risk of another 9/11 attack on our homeland. Having lived through that experience first hand, I would strongly recommend the U.S. do everything reasonable to uncover plots to kill innocent Americans.

 

 

 

 

 

How Could ISIS Harm The U.S. If It Wins The War?

By Sal Bommarito

Are Americans unduly concerned about the ISIS war? Many would say yes, including mainstream media. The proof is their coverage of ISIS, which has dropped off considerably in the past few weeks. Others of us believe the current imbroglio is only the beginning of a long drawn out odyssey.

Like Vietnam, Americans are becoming inured to problems in far off places, especially when they never come face to face with the enemy. In the 60s and 70s, most adults lived their lives and ignored the fighting and casualties. Fortunately, students and other young people recognized that the U.S. was fighting an unjust war.

So it is with ISIS. In fact, our president has vetoed any use of ground forces, although there are a few thousand G.I. advisers on site. This edict effectively mitigates the possibility of significant U.S. casualties. It is unlikely our service people will be killed or wounded if they are dropping bombs from thousands of feet overhead.

All this is fine if you are indifferent about the U.S. playing the key role in a war that may continue in perpetuity. The U.S. is not going to win the war with ISIS unless somebody provides foot soldiers. So, the end of this conflict for the U.S. will occur when our government becomes tired and frustrated with bombing.

But, you already know this. The U.S. is going to avoid collateral damage at all costs. So, all the enemy has to do is hide in populated areas and wait for our leaders to give up the cause.

But, so what? ISIS cannot hurt America or Americans, right? Maybe yes, maybe no. Let’s assume ISIS wins, which presumably would result in the formation of a new ultra-radical theocracy in the general area of Syria an Iraq. The new government would likely be ruled by the military; it’s doubtful there are trained politicians and diplomats in the ISIS community. So violent religious extremists, who are driven by a desire to kill Shiites, Christians and non-Arabs, will dominate the country.

Still, how could the fledgling nation be a risk to the U.S.? Just think back a few years. Who would have thought that Afghanistan would indirectly inflict great damage on America? The Afghan government enabled Al Qaeda to train its terrorists and 9/11 happened. Religious fanatics will not sit quietly and allow sworn enemies to live in peace.

What could ISIS do to harm the U.S. or its allies? For one thing, it could train individuals to attack western interests, including our cities, airplanes, tourists, ships, oil fields, embassies, etc. ISIS could attempt a major terrorist attack after the current fighting ends. It might work with other Sunni fanatics to disenfranchise ethnic and religious groups in the region. It could make the Middle East an uninhabitable place by continuing to threaten all who reside there.

And then there is the oil. True, the U.S. is becoming energy independent. But, independence does not mean that serious disruptions in the flow of oil out of the Middle East will not affect our economy and our trading partners around the world.

The aforementioned is a bridge to the final item that needs to be considered. Will ISIS continue to attack others in the region? Is Iran at risk? Keep in mind that ISIS is comprised of radical Sunnis, and Iran radical Shiites. The potential for a much greater confrontation is brewing at this time. And, will the U.S. allow ISIS to destabilize Saudi Arabia? Probably not. At some point, the U.S. is going to be fighting an old fashioned war in the Middle East with soldiers on the ground. The alternative will result in a radically redrawn Middle East map.

Suicide Bombers and Lone Wolves

By Sal Bommarito

What motivates individuals to commit unseemly acts of terror that often result in their untimely demise? You don’t have to be a psychologist to deduce that suicide bombers and lone wolves are troubled individuals. But, there are some interesting differences between the groups.

Suicide bombers pay the ultimate price to commit their despicable deeds. Individuals strap on or carry explosives into a populated area and detonate them. It should come as no surprise that suicide bombings, almost exclusively, occur outside the U.S. Suicide bombers are generally brainwashed, destitute young people (men and women) who have little to live for. Most immigrants to the U.S. find reasons to live and so suicide bombings are rare.

The cowards who recruit suicide bombers do not have the courage to make the ultimate sacrifice themselves. They seek out children and convince them that God will reward them for killing innocent people. It is doubtful God considers these acts righteous. Yet, recruits are plentiful; they believe those who deceive them; and they agree to terrorize others.

A loan wolf could be any unhappy person, young or old who is mentally ill or recently experienced a traumatic event. However, most loan wolves expect to live after committing a crime against humanity, although police kill many, and some take their own lives.

Loan wolves may be insane or upset, or recruited by terrorist groups like ISIS. Disgruntled and terminated employees occasionally return to the workplace and murder fellow employees. Children who were bullied or recently broke up with a loved one come to school armed and wreak havoc.

Other lone wolves come from other nations on a mission to terrorize Americans. Generally, religion and/or jihad are the motivation. But, it is probable these individuals are also uneducated, dirt poor and have little reason to live and be happy.

If these situations were not so horribly tragic, it would be amusing listening to talking heads and politicians debate whether a crime is a terrorist act, a workplace crime, insanity or whatever. What difference does it make how murder is classified? The important thing is to root out those that inspire such horrible anti-social behavior, and to treat those that are ill.