An Assessment of Counterterrorism Policy
By Rep. Michael McCaul, Chairman, House Committee on Homeland Security
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa, Contributing Editor
In a July 31, 2013 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul delivered a stinging criticism of President Obama's counterterrorism policies.
Chairman McCaul lamented the administration's retreat in the war on terror, accusing the President of a "pre 9/11 mindset," that wishes to declare victory over Al Qaeda and fight global terrorists with a law enforcement approach. McCaul warned that the threat from Islamic terrorists has grown more decentralized and geographically dispersed, and that the "battlefield is everywhere."
McCaul noted that while the administration has continued to use covert means to wage war against terrorists, it refuses to define them as Islamic radicals and attempts to downplay or willfully ignore the Islamic connection to individual terrorist attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Ft. Hood massacre being two such examples. "You cannot defeat an enemy you are unwilling to define," he said.
The administration, he said, has conducted a "wait and see diplomacy" in countries like Egypt and Syria which has only served to embolden our enemies and undermine moderate Muslim forces throughout the region. McCaul claimed that secular forces in Syria could have been bolstered months ago, but instead the President waited while radical Islamic forces infiltrated the opposition to Syrian President Assad, leaving us with no good policy options in that country.
His speech was delivered before the current debate on whether to use military force in Syria. It is unclear from his remarks whether he would favor or oppose such action now, though his remarks indicate that we might have had better options if the President had acted before Islamists infiltrated the Syrian opposition.
McCaul also criticized the administration for threatening to prematurely exit Afghanistan which may undermine the gains we have made since 2001.
He warned against letting the "fatigue" of fighting long wars undermine our "mission" in the region.
McCaul's speech fell short in one respect: his specific criticisms of Obama's policies were not matched by specific proposals to replace those policies. Generalities, no more than failed policies, will win the war on terror.