Fifteen years ago, 19 men boarded four aircraft in the United States. A few hours later, thousands of people were dead — and the country and the world were changed forever.
America had been attacked in the most brutal surprise attack since Pearl Harbor, but unlike that attack, in which the Japanese military targeted the U.S. military, the Sept. 11, 2001, attack was carried out by Islamic jihadis against civilians in what they deemed an “infidel” nation.
Secular wars, cold wars, balance of power politics: We know how to manage those. Wars in which the enemy is driven by religious fanaticism: Not so much.
By now, we should have fully absorbed its lessons, be wholly grounded in reality about the nature of the enemy and fighting it as efficiently as possible with all available military, political, ideological, economic and diplomatic tools.
Instead, we remain crippled by what former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy termed a “willful blindness” about the enemy, destructive political correctness, paralyzing military rules of engagement and an abject failure of leadership.
In the days immediately after the attack, the country was immobilized by the growing awareness that our national reality was now far more dangerous and uncertain. Fear, anger, dread and mourning gripped the nation, but so did a sense of pride in the heroism shown by so many and a deep-seated faith that America would smash the enemy and emerge stronger.
That sense of unity and defiance melted away during the Bush years due to controversial counterterrorism measures from enhanced interrogation to the war in Iraq. Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 largely on a promise to be the polar opposite of Mr. Bush in dealing with America’s enemies. Hillary Clinton, despite her Senate vote authorizing the Iraq war, promised the same approach as his first secretary of State.
During Mr. Obama’s first term, they worked in tandem to reverse Mr. Bush’s aggressive approach to Islamic supremacism and terror: They sent American power into retreat, particularly in the Middle East, accelerated the refugee resettlement program, which sent thousands of Middle Eastern “refugees” to many Republican districts, and refused to properly classify the enemy, never mind fight it effectively.
Attack after attack, both abroad and at home, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton followed the same script: mild condemnation, warnings not to overreact, moving on.
It would be nice if the “leader of the free world” and the woman who wants that job showed the same fire about fighting Islamic supremacism that they show about fighting Republicans. But this is what you get when you put committed leftists and American apologists in power.
The problem is that this attitude isn’t limited to Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton. It dominates the modern Democratic Party, which is now run by those who believe that since America has been a criminal power, we must recede in contrition.
A few weeks before the January 2015 jihadi attack in Paris, Mrs. Clinton called for “respect” for our enemies:
“This is what we call smart power,” she said. “Using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security. Leaving no one side on the sidelines. Showing respect even for one’s enemies. Trying to understand and in so far as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view.”
Understanding our adversaries’ ideology and ambitions has always been necessary. But Mrs. Clinton took it out of the realm of cold analysis and into irresponsible oversharing and misdirected compassion.
In a few sentences, Mrs. Clinton reminded everybody why voters have traditionally trusted Republicans over Democrats to handle national security. Having grownups in charge of defeating our enemies is far preferable to having liberals invite them to join a James Taylor sing-along.
Both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have continually expressed compassion for the enemy, concern over imaginary American bigotry, and a desire to socially engineer the rest of the world.
Mrs. Clinton’s statement expressed the same kind of navel-gazing nonsense espoused by Mr. Obama and his approach of having “social service providers” address “violent extremism.” As they have presided over our diminished military, economic, diplomatic and political capability, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have played directly into our enemies’ hands.
Fifteen years later, the American people know better. But our leadership does not, will not, know better. They are obsessed with downgrading the U.S. superpower, extending “respect” to barbarians, and striving for “understanding.”
The attack that shocked America has receded in memory, replaced by dangerous threat denial.
After Sept. 11, “never forget” became the national mantra. This presidential election is about many things, but “never forgetting” the true nature of the threat and the deeply dangerous way Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have failed to deal with it should be paramount in every voter’s mind.
Vote like your life — and the life of the nation — depend on it, because they do.
• Monica Crowley is editor of online opinion at The Washington Times.
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