Cliff May

I like bipartisanship as much as the next guy. Still, the Washington Post headline on Monday was disheartening: “Embassy, consulate closures applauded on both sides of the aisle.” I don’t doubt that intelligence analysts had evidence indicating that a terrorist attack was imminent. I don’t dispute that shutting down diplomatic outposts for a few days was prudent. I do worry that, a dozen years after 9/11, America’s response to terrorism, applauded by Republicans and Democrats alike, is to turn out the lights and lock the doors.

And to persist in self-delusion: “Today, the core of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat,” President Obama asserted in what was billed as a major speech at the National Defense University on May 23.

Consider:

1. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden as AQ’s numero uno, is an active manager who appoints commanders on battlefields from South Asia to the Middle East to North Africa. He holds conference calls, orders acts of terrorism, and strategizes for a well-funded global organization.

2. If – despite what I’ve outlined above – core AQ actually is in decline, the fact remains that embassies and consulates in 17 countries were closed because the president and his advisers believe AQ affiliates have the capability to launch serious attacks in all those places. That’s not “the path to defeat” — it’s more like the HOV lane.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.