The Valentine’s Day veepstakes between former Vice President Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, the current occupant of the office, illustrates that the Obama White House isn’t ready to have a serious discussion about terrorism strategy.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Mr. Cheney raised a number of legitimate concerns regarding the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policy, in particular resurrecting the failed law enforcement model for dealing with terrorist suspects. Mr. Cheney contrasted this Clinton-era approach with the war-fighting strategy adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which was based on a more realistic assessment of the nature of 21st-century globally networked terrorism. Mr. Cheney praised the current administration where it was due, such as in pursuing a surge strategy in Afghanistan, but his overall assessment was that the American homeland is less safe because of the Obama administration’s backward-looking terrorism policy.
The White House deployed Mr. Biden to NBC’s “Meet the Press” to counter Mr. Cheney, a task the current vice president approached with his usual mix of fact, fancy and befuddlement. He pointed out that the Obama administration is effectively using expanded drone attacks on terrorist leaders in Pakistan and elsewhere, but he failed to note that this was a George W. Bush-era policy that the Obama administration wisely has continued. He dodged the question of what might happen if terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed is acquitted at his trial, repeating the Obama team’s line that “he will not be walking the streets of the United States of America.” This sounds like another way of saying if the Obama administration fails to convict the sheik, he will be sent off to walk the streets of some other country.
Mr. Biden reiterated that the war in Iraq will be one of the Obama administration’s great achievements, even though Mr. Obama stubbornly opposed and publicly denounced the policies that led to victory. Apparently, the administration’s “great achievement” is executing the withdrawal timetable the Bush administration negotiated and signed in December 2008. If the United States had done what Mr. Obama had counseled before he was president, the Iraq war would be at the helicopters-bugging-out-of-the-Green-Zone-with-people-hanging-from-the-skids stage right now.
Mr. Biden also claimed the Iraq war has not been worth its “horrible price,” but in August 2002, regarding Saddam Hussein, he said, “We have no choice but to eliminate the threat. This is a guy who is an extreme danger to the world.” On Sunday, Mr. Biden accused Mr. Cheney of rewriting history, but at least Mr. Cheney has been consistent. It is ironic that Mr. Biden, who has been consistently weak on national security matters over the past four decades, has forgotten his one brief shining moment of clarity.
Mr. Biden failed to address the most troubling blind spot in the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy, which is its persistent failure to recognize the domestic threat posed by Islamic radicalism. The February Quadrennial Homeland Security Review Report does not mention Muslim extremism, though it does highlight “the threat of global climate change.” The 86-page report on the Fort Hood massacre, released in January, failed to address suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s radical Islamic motivations, even though they are central to understanding the reasons for the shooting. The administration refuses to discuss why it gives terrorists an ideological free pass when Islamic extremists have perpetrated all the major domestic terrorist incidents on Mr. Obama’s watch.
Mr. Biden said on Wednesday that he is “very concerned about a terrorist attack in the United States.” He’s not the only one.