‘Is the War on terror over?” That question led off a three-page advertisement in
The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. It was really a rhetorical query
that reflects a view held at the highest levels of government, academia and
media where even the terms “war on terror,” “radical Islam” and “Islamic terror”
are rarely used.
For many of our governing elites, “the war on terror” is
not a has-been, but more like a never-was. It was a blip that jumped up on the
screen of history for a few months after 9-11 and has now receded beneath the
waves – along with the earthly remains of Osama bin- Laden.
All that is
left is a clean-up operation handled by remote-control drone air craft sent to
deal with AQAP (al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula) or AQI (al Qaida in Iraq) or
AQY (al Qaida in Yemen). For such analysts – including President Barack Obama
–there is no broad-based Arab-Islamic terror threat, but only the alphabet soup
remnants of al Qaida: AQAP, AQI and AQY.
It is easy, clean and almost
passé, almost a game where terror leaders can be put on a deck of cards – like
rival baseball players – not marked for defeat on the playing field but marked
This is the kind of pastime enjoyed by those who examine the
details on a fallen leaf but miss the tree, let alone the forest.
similarly myopic view once reduced Western analysis of Palestinian terror to an
abbreviated name-dropping exercise: PLO, PFLP, PFLP-GC, DFLP, Tanzeem, Black
There were always many journalists, CIA analysts and State
Department officials who would swear that they could mark the organizational and
ideological affiliation of the terrorists by neat unchanging categories. They
claimed for example that Yasser Arafat of PLOFatah was dramatically different
from Hamas or Tanzeem.
They often said Arafat was not really behind the
Munich Olympics massacre in 1972, because that was “Black September,” or that
Arafat did not order the murder of American diplomats in Sudan in 1974 because
that, too, was Black September. They said Arafat was not for suicide bombing
because that was Tanzeem or Hamas.
For many of our supposedly “best and
brightest” the threat of Arab-Islamic terror was an exaggerated alarm, a “green
menace” (according to a lampooning headline in The New York Times a few months
before the 9-11 catastrophe). Unfortunately, “The Green Menace” is
When the buildings fell on 9-11, so did the network of lies and
prevarications that America and the West were not really threatened by
Arab-Islamic terror, but much more quickly than the buildings could be re-built,
the structure of deception has been re-erected, and it is bigger than
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to justify the building of a
mosque near the 9-11 site by claiming that many Muslims were killed on 9-11 and
that many Muslims grieved over the attack. This is true, but it is irrelevant,
because many Muslims – many, many Muslims – rejoiced at the 9-11
Polls by the Pew organization and by Gallup show that significant
parts of the Muslim community around the world still justify attacking the West
with suicide terror and also justify trying to impose Islam on the
To build a mosque near the World Trade Center site is legal, of
course, but is anti-historical, act of willful denial of the facts and their
This same kind of willful denial of the facts
occurred after the Fort Hood massacre and after the nearly successful Christmas
Day bombing (“The Underwear Bomber”) when President Obama and his aides first
tried to ignore the events and then characterized them as actions by lone gunmen
or lone lunatics.
Obama has done the best he could to weaken Western
efforts to gather intelligence (through surveillance, interrogation, bank
transfer monitoring) by revealing details of these programs and shutting them
down whenever possible. This cripples the human intelligence aspect of
The Obama administration is the symbolic representative
of a whole elite – in media, academia and government – that would like to ignore
the fact that Islamic terror is not only not dead but establishing new ways to
operate through second-generation terrorists who were born and educated in the
Obama and his aides would also like to pretend that the Muslim
Brotherhood, which fathered al Qaida and Hamas, is really moderate. Obama would
like to have us believe that the Brotherhood – which has grabbed power in Egypt
quickly and efficiently, and which may seize power in Syria – can be bought off
by American aid.
Sadly, we may have to learn, again, the hard way, that
Islamic extremism and the terror it foments are still a factor in our
The writer, an expert on Arab politics and communications, is the
author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat published
by Threshold/Simon and Schuster. He was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s
Ministry of Public Security and teaches at Bar-Ilan University.