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Obama’s Legacy Depends on Security, Security, Security (Updated)

John on December 27, 2009 at 9:57 am

For all the sturm und drang about the Patriot Act and “torture” and the end of Western Civilization in general during the Bush years, there was one thing Democrats never had to complain about. We never had another serious terror attack on American soil during his tenure. We did have a couple incidents of “sudden jihad syndrome” but these appeared to have been small time efforts with no international backing.

But all that seems to be changing in the era of hope and change. Though it sometimes seems much longer, Barack Obama has only been President for 11 months. During that time he has had two major strategies in Afghanistan and “reached out” to dictators in North Korea and Iran. He has made nice with FARC funding, would be dictator Hugo Chavez, talked about ending our hostile relationship with Cuba and talked tough to Israel. One would think all that effort at resetting American foreign relations would have paid some dividends by now. And in a certain way they have. The terrorists seem to have been emboldened.

Dividend 1 – Major Nidal Hasan murders 13 at Fort Hood.

Dividend 2 – The Christmas Day underwear bomber tries to blow up an airplane bound for detroit.

There is ample evidence that Major Hasan was a domestic terrorist and was in connection with an al Qaeda recruiter now in Yemen. It’s still not clear why he was promoted just six months before his rampage, even though the FBI was aware of his contacts.

And it also appears that the failed underwear bomber was another radicalized Islamic rich kid who had contacts through Yemen to al Qaeda. According to ABC, “Officials now say tragedy was only averted on Northwest flight 253 because a makeshift detonator failed to work properly.” In other words, Christmas day could have been the second most deadly terror attack on US soil in history. It would have been if not for some failed technology, a watchful stewardess and some quick acting passengers.

America got very lucky. In fact, we should probably consider this a Christmas miracle. The question is whether we can continue to be this lucky if the attacks continue at this pace. At this rate, will we make it through 2012 without another major attack on Americans soil? Frankly, I’m not sure we’re going to make it through 2010.

Right now the administration is doing a “hard pivot” from the health care disaster to a new jobs program. The President is eager to present himself as focused on the issue in time for his State of the Union address. May I be the first to suggest that, had the underwear bomb gone off, Americans would not be solely focused on jobs, jobs, jobs right now. They would be focused on failure, failure, failure — the pathetic spin from Janet Napolitano notwithstanding.

While it remains true that Obama’s legacy will depend in large part on the economy, one hopes his administration hasn’t lost sight of the even greater concern of national security. Obama’s effort to present himself differently than Bush abroad seems, so far, to have benefited us very little. Indeed the rate of attacks on the US seems only to have increased. The President should take note of that now. His legacy –and to a great degree that of his entire party — depends on it.

Update: Oliver Willis takes me to task for, well, better let him say it:

I’m not really interested in the overall thesis, the faulty idea that we and our allies weren’t attacked after 9/11 – as if bombings in Bali, London, and Madrid weren’t aimed at the west, not to mention the Anthrax attacks. But it is this conservative insistence that 9/11 didn’t happen on Bush’s watch or that somehow he gets a pass for it. Bush was 9 months into his presidency, he didn’t just show up that day for work. 9 months into his tenure, George W. Bush had already had more Americans killed via terrorism than any other president in US history. Almost a year into Obama’s presidency, Bush’s sad record remains.

So I say there wasn’t another serious attack on terrorist soil and Oliver’s response is that a) 9/11 was under Bush’s watch and b) terrorists attacked other nations during Bush’s watch.

He’s right about the second point of course, but then I did specify terror attacks on “American soil.” That attacks happened elsewhere but did not happen here doesn’t help his case so much as it helps mine.

As for the first part, yes George Bush had been President nine months when 9/11 happened. We all wish that the FBI and NSA had done a better job during those months, but it’s hard to see how the failure rests squarely on Bush. The fact is that few people in the US were alert to the serious danger presented by terror prior to that day. It was only after 9/11 that we began to take the threat seriously as a nation.

The fact remains –and it’s not surprising Oliver has no interest in discussing this part– that President Bush prevented another attack during his remaining 7 1/2 years in office. Put simply, we were all shocked the first time, but there’s no excuse for a reprise. Will President Obama, who after all was elected in large measure on his promise of resetting American foreign policy, manage as well as his predecessor. The short answer is probably not.

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