The United States has seen many successes in its war against terrorism, and President Barack Obama deserves his fair share of credit.
That’s because he had the good sense to maintain many of the policies first employed by President George W. Bush.
Both presidents were determined to remain on the offensive and strike our enemies on their home turf, forcing them to focus on their own survival instead of planning attacks on America. Both presidents were willing to take unprecedented and unpopular (with some) steps to maintain our advantage in the war.
President Bush in a very limited way employed the practice of water boarding to gain key intelligence information. President Obama has widely used drones to kill terrorist leaders and others who would do us harm.
Unfortunately the president seems to have come to the conclusion that the war on terror is largely over and we need a new strategy.
He apparently bases that theory on the end of the war in Iraq, the impending withdrawal of most coalition forces from Afghanistan, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the elimination of much of al-Qaida’s top leadership.
There’s no doubt that he’s correct to some degree. We’ve had some spectacular success in our effort to rid the planet of radical Islamic terrorism. Our military and intelligence communities have prevented more major attacks on our homeland while maintaining the pressure on terrorist leaders throughout the Middle East.
But President Obama seems to think our success to this point is all that’s necessary. He’s renewed his call for the closing of the POW camp at Guantanamo, Cuba; changes to the Authorization of Use of Military Force law; and revisions to the policy regarding the use of drones. In short, the president wants to declare victory and turn his attention to other matters, mostly on the domestic front.
But the president must realize that this war is far from over. Final victory can only be accomplished by maintaining our vigilance.
This is not the type of enemy that is going to meet us on a ship in Tokyo Harbor and sign official papers of surrender. The extremists will wait until we stop paying attention and strike again at the first opportunity. It would be a horrific mistake to give them that chance.
I’ve personally witnessed the high cost of burying our heads in the sand. I came to Congress in 1993 when our government was in full denial of the terrorist threat, despite previous attacks on our embassies in Africa and Saudi Arabia, the near sinking of a U.S. Naval vessel in Yemen, and the bombing of the basement garage of the World Trade Center.
In the aftermath of 9/11, one question was asked repeatedly: How could our national security structure have failed to connect the dots and prevent the horrific death and destruction we experienced that day? In hindsight it should not have been that hard to anticipate, prepare and defend against a threat that was clearly present and growing.
The threat today is as great as ever. The enemy is still present, in different locations, developing different strategies. Rather than being based in the ungoverned regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, it now has many smaller bases in both of those countries, as well as the Arabian Peninsula, northern Africa, and other parts of the Middle East.
Former allies in Egypt and Libya are no longer in power, and are not able to help contain al-Qaida, a fact which became startlingly evident by the attack on our embassy in Benghazi last year.
Terrorism in the West has increased, as evidenced by the Fort Hood attack, the bombing in Boston, and the recent murder of a British soldier in the U.K. While coalition forces have withdrawn from Iraq and are on the way out of Afghanistan, radical elements continue to be very active in those nations, making their futures very unpredictable and our ability to stay out of the fight far from certain.
The threat we’re facing today is different, but it’s still very real and deadly. It’s critical that the president understand that hard fact and remain very much on the offensive. Mr. President, this war is real, now is not the time to go back to the policies of the '90s that made America vulnerable and enabled the attacks of 9/11. Stay strong!
Rep. Pete Hoekstra is a Michigan Republican.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.