- The Washington Times - Friday, January 8, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, President Obama announced that he made a significant discovery: “We are at war.” Glad he finally noticed.

When Mr. Obama unilaterally ended the war on terrorism earlier this year, al Qaeda didn’t get the memo. The enemy is on the offensive, seizing the initiative from what they see as a weak and timid leader. Now Mr. Obama wants to take the ball back. On Tuesday, he said that “swift action is critical to staying one step ahead of a nimble adversary,” but the fact that the White House had to twice reschedule the president’s terrorism speech only reinforces the idea that this is a gang that cannot shoot straight.

The administration has shown a decided lack of seriousness since they renamed the war on terrorism the “overseas contingency operation” against “man-caused disasters.” Mr. Obama has consciously and deliberately returned to the failed 1990s counter- terrorism model that set the groundwork for Sept. 11, 2001. Case in point is the decision to treat Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a criminal instead of an enemy combatant. This was a critical tactical error. Mr. Abdulmutallab was a new al Qaeda recruit with experience in the terror group’s newest franchise operation, and initial reports were that he was willing to talk. He could have provided fresh, timely, actionable intelligence to interrogators, but after he was read his Miranda rights he chose to lawyer up and went silent.

The administration should understand that Mr. Abdulmutallab is in fact a prisoner of war, Flight 253 was his battlefield, and not all contingency operations are overseas.

The Obama administration has a track record of downplaying terrorism after it happens. The Ft. Hood massacre - dubbed “strike one” by National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones - was quickly written off as “not terrorism related.” Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan saw himself as a jihadist warrior but was charged with murder rather than terrorism. He was described as a lone wolf, though we now know that the FBI had monitored his correspondence with Sheik Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born al Qaeda religious leader. According to the sheik, Maj. Hasan was “asking whether killing American officers and soldiers is legitimate or not.” You would think this was a dot worth connecting.

The same knee-jerk response was well in evidence after the incident over Detroit. Mr. Obama referred to Mr. Abdulmutallab as an “isolated extremist,” and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said there was “no indication” that the attack was “part of anything larger.” Ms. Napolitano also infamously claimed “the system worked,” but if it worked for anyone it was al Qaeda.

Nothing Mr. Obama announced yesterday will make Americans safer unless and until his administration internalizes the fact that we are at war with violent Muslim extremists intent on destroying our way of life.