I am not suggesting that Mr. Obama was directly complicit in the failure to keep Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab and his explosive-laden underwear off Northwest 253 on Christmas Day. As is often the case with these things, there were lots of red flags "in the system" about this would-be terrorist that should have kept him off that plane. Such "dots" are easily connected with hindsight, after the attack is launched. The trick is for people well south of the President to act on them beforehand.
The fact that the trick was not performed in this instance or, for that matter, in connection with the penultimate attack - the one perpetrated by Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood last November - does indeed constitute, in President Obama's words, a "systemic failure." It is entirely appropriate to try to find out who dropped which ball, less to assign blame than in the hope of preventing a repeat.
One thing is already obvious, though. What Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano famously called "the system" has been trying with increasing difficulty to prevent terrorism here at home within impossible policy and programmatic constraints. Mr. Obama must take a measure of responsibility for those constraints.
The most important of these has been the systematic and deliberate dumbing down of U.S. government efforts to understand, characterize and, therefore, act against the enemy. For example, terms like "man-caused disasters," "oversees contingency operations," "isolated extremists" have been coined to obscure, rather than illuminate, the fact that we are under assault by Muslims who adhere to the supremacist program and ideology that authoritative Islam calls Shariah.
Adherents to Shariah are explicitly obliged to engage in holy war, or "jihad." Mohammed showed that the preferred way to wage jihad is through terrifying violence. Only where violent jihad would be impracticable or counter-productive, does Shariah grant its followers the latitude to engage in jihad in non-violent and stealthy ways.
While the tactics may differ, the goal, however, is absolutely the same: the submission of the non-Muslim world to Islam and, ultimately, the triumph of a global Islamic theocracy.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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