In an interview with Hugh Hewitt on Friday, Senator Lindsey Graham spoke of the threat of “lone wolf” terrorists in the United States. He cited the recent incident of a young Boston man of Middle Eastern origin, reportedly radicalized via a website, who was shot dead when he attacked police with a hunting knife. We will be lucky if such amateurs are all ISIS can throw at us?
After fourteen years, one of the as yet unlearned – or not fully learned – lessons of 9/11 is that there are forces around the world at war with us even if we do not consider ourselves at war with them. This is nothing new.
A century ago World War I drew us into a cycle of conflicts that continues to this day. The conflagration brought about the collapse of three imperial systems – German-Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman. Each collapse led to the creation of a vicious totalitarian regime seeking domination for, in turn, a race, a class, and now a cult. And each declared war overtly or covertly, directly or indirectly on a reluctant and unsuspecting United States.
In these battles until now we have had the enormous advantage of standing beyond the reach of our adversaries. That advantage has almost surely ended.
Put it like this: If you were a leader of ISIS – a logistically and strategically sophisticated organization – and wanted to sow fear in the United States, would you be satisfied with limiting your U.S. attacks to whatever reckless loonies you could activate through social media? Not likely. Rather, you would want to distribute trained teams throughout the nation to launch attacks using a variety of means in a variety of places.
We have been hearing for years of prayer rugs and other jihadist paraphernalia strewn through the dessert just north of the Mexican border. That their owners would jettison these materials before trekking north suggests they want to move undetected in our midst, not announcing any affiliation or thinking that might arouse suspicion.
The 9/11 attacks followed a decade of national security neglect – the refusal to take bid Laden into custody, shooting cruise missiles into empty factories, and all the sorry rest. The failings of the last seven years have been far more extreme. Senator Graham is right that we should all be concerned. The trouble is, he may be far more right than he knows.