Obfuscating The National Security Threat

January 11th, 2011
Published in Family Security Matters January 11, 2010

Successful aerospace businessman and lecturer Norman Augustine has been known to employ cynicism to make a point.   Emphasizing the need for clear speech, he once commented, “Simply stated, it is sagacious to eschew obfuscation.” While one may not necessarily grasp Augustine’s words, one grasps his point.

What is worrisome, however, is when democratic leaders—not intending to be cynical—use words, or fail to use words, leaving a national security threat so obfuscated that free societies simply do not fully understand it.  It is a sin of leadership suffered for several years in countries like South Korea and the US—although Seoul appears now to be getting the point.

When Kim Dae Jung became president of South Korea in 1998, he embarked upon a new policy to affect Seoul’s relationship with Pyongyang.  Dubbed the “Sunshine Policy,” the name came from one of Aesop’s fables.  In a story which told of the sun and wind competing to get a man to remove his coat, a harsh wind only caused the man to clutch his coat more determinedly while a shining sun succeeded in its being voluntarily removed so as to enjoy the warmth.

Kim believed a soft policy of political and economic interaction with Pyongyang would reap more benefit than the harsh policy followed by previous administrations of the opposition (GNP) party.  His decision to launch the Sunshine Policy meant ignoring Pyongyang’s violent history of repeated acts of unprovoked aggression occurring during the decades since the Korean war ended—acts that included the assassination of South Korea’s First Lady.

The policy resulted in an historic first as President Kim traveled to Pyongyang in 2000 for a summit meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.  The meeting of the two Kims generated a lot of publicity and a promise by the bad Kim to make a reciprocal trip to Seoul.  President Kim was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for taking this initiative—although it was later learned he secretly paid the North hundreds of millions of dollars to participate.  (The bad Kim never made his promised reciprocal trip to Seoul, even after the good Kim’s successor also traveled to Pyongyang in an effort to buy peace in his time.)

Since 1999, based on the North’s aggression, Seoul had referred to Pyongyang as its “main enemy” in talks and documents.  An outcrop of the 2000 summit and Seoul’s effort to appease Pyongyang was the removal of any reference to the North as “the enemy.”  President Kim’s successor of the same political party, Roh Moo-hyun, continued the policy of refusing to “call a spade a spade.” In the government’s 2004 defense paper, the North was only referred to as a “direct military threat,” even watering it down further in 2006 to an “existing military threat.”  But all references to the North as “the enemy” were removed.

Meanwhile, under cover of a ten year Sunshine Policy, Pyongyang—using other assets it garnered under the policy and the millions of dollars paid by the South in 2000—aggressively pursued its nuclear arms program.  A policy that sought to obfuscate a serious national security threat to South Korea had, by the time the GNP regained the presidency under Lee Myung-bak in 2008, made Pyongyang more of a threat than ever before.  President Lee quickly abandoned the failed policy.  Like the Aesop story, the peace the Sunshine Policy was to secure proved to be only a fable.

As Pyongyang’s acts of aggression against Seoul continued last year, including the sinking of a destroyer and artillery attack on an island, South Korea finally understood the danger in not identifying North Korea as “the enemy” and of the need to take the appropriate steps to prepare to deal with it.  As Seoul undertook action to better defend itself in the future, it also issued a new defense white paper clearly designating the North as the enemy.  The obfuscation generated by the Sunshine Policy was finally removed.

Nowhere has obfuscation of a national security threat been more blatant than our own. In issuing its national security guidelines after President Obama came to office, his Administration has sought to play down the real threat to our national security.  In identifying the threat as terrorism, all reference to “Islam,” “Islamic extremism” and “jihad” has been eliminated so as not to risk offending moderate Muslims.

These guidelines were evident in the first-ever Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) delivered to Congress last February.  While using the term “terrorist” 66 times and the words “extremist” or “violent extremism” 14 times, it only mentioned “al-Qaeda” five times, while avoiding any reference to “Islam.”  Yet, in April 2008, DHS had no hesitation in warning about possible future acts of domestic “right-wing extremism” from “disgruntled military veterans” motivated by a poor economy and volatile political climate.  In other words, while hesitant to attach an “Islamic” label to a possible terrorist threat, DHS was not hesitant to attach the terrorist label to our courageous American warriors returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

While acts/plots of domestic terrorism by Islamists in the US were low between 2001 and 2008, the number had doubled by 2009.  And, the only “disgruntled military veterans” who have been involved in domestic acts of terrorism have been those sharing a common belief with their civilian counterparts—a belief in Islamic extremism.

Profiling Islamist terrorists has become more difficult as their socioeconomic and ethnic patterns differ; they include both immigrants and non-immigrants; they can range in age from 18 to 70. But, as the Bipartisan Policy Center reports, “the only common denominator appears to be a newfound hatred for their native or adopted country, a degree of dangerous malleability, and a religious fervor justifying or legitimizing violence that impels these very impressionable and perhaps easily influenced individuals toward potentially lethal acts of violence.”

The Islamic extremism generating our homegrown terrorists is the same plaguing Europe today, exhorting such impressionable individuals on to violence.

On December 15, 2010, the Islamic Awakening Conference hosted a lecture in Britain delivered by British Salafi Abu Mounisa.  Stripping the rhetoric free of its obfuscation, Abu Mounisa’s message is clear:  he publicly calls for the murder of non-Muslims and revolution against their societies.

The translation of Abu Mounisa’s actual remarks—made available by the Middle East Media Research Institute—is chilling.  He says: “When we talk about da’wa (call for Islam), don’t ever think, my brothers and sisters, that our da’wa is only to address a few people on the streets, and call them to Islam. Our da’wa should be the da’wa that attacks their system, and we replace it with Islam. That’s what we need to do, my dear brothers, we need to call the whole of society to Islam. We’re not just calling one sister or one brother to follow the religion of Allah. We want the whole society to bow down to Allah.”

Referring to British Prime Minister David Cameron, Abu Mounisa adds, “We need to attack him. We need to say: Your laws are oppressive. We need to deal with those laws, and replace them with Islam. Whoever rejects the Taghout (submission to nothing other than Allah and Islamic law)…so we would destroy his system and replace it with Islam. That is what we need to do.”

Abu Mounisa clearly rejects a Martin Luther King-esque approach to bringing about such change.  Concerning that approach, he says, “Do you think that is going to change society? Without attacking the law and order? No, my dear brothers, there is no way it is going to change society. It’s impossible that society will change. You need to provoke society for society to be changed.”  He goes on to explain, in the days of Prophet Muhammad, people worshipped 360 idols in Mecca.  Muhammad stopped such idol worship—not peacefully—but with the sword.

“Today,” Abu Mounisa emphasizes, “people don’t worship physical idols. Today, people worship the ideas of democracy, freedom, and capitalism…Who allows that freedom? Who allows that democracy? Who allows these false gods to exist? The government, the law and order, they are the ones that allow it.”  Like Muhammad, the only way to destroy these ideas is by beheading believers which is why, Abu Mounisa, concludes, “We need to behead capitalism from its roots, take it, kill it from its roots. That is what we need to do. We should hate it so much, my dear brothers, that every day, we should attack their system. Every day. Just like the Prophet Muhammad did…”

Interestingly, while the US has difficulty identifying Islamism as a threat and expressing concerns about an ideology far worse than Nazism, two European countries heavily populated by Muslim immigrants now are voicing their own concerns.  A recent poll by a French newspaper reveals about two-thirds of the French and Germans realize that Muslims are not well integrated into society—with 40% calling this a threat to their national identity.  With the largest Muslim communities in Europe, obviously France and Germany are being impacted more so than other states.  But this concern should be viewed by all democracies with the same significance as the canary in the coal mine.

Today, the greatest threat in history to our democracy is that posed by Islamic extremism.  Earlier generations of free societies were able to recognize, understand and defeat earlier threats to its existence posed by Nazism and Communism because those threats were made clear to them.  But, the threat posed by Islamism to America remains obfuscated by a President unwilling to call it what it is.

Obfuscating a threat seeking the destruction of our way of life shows unbelievable naiveté by our President, underscored by a determined unwillingness to call Islamists “the enemy” at the same time he freely attaches such a label to his political opponents.

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