- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A new White House plan to engage local communities in the fight against violent extremism is a positive step because it finally admits domestic Muslim radicalism is a threat. The danger is that it may lay the groundwork for expanding liberal social programs at the expense of law enforcement and homeland security.

The eight-page document, “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States,” was released Wednesday with little fanfare. The plan is noteworthy for its emphasis on the domestic threat posed by al Qaeda. “Al Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents represent the pre-eminent terrorist threat to our country,” the paper states. “The fact that al Qaeda and its affiliates and adherents are openly and specifically inciting Americans to support or commit acts of violence … poses an ongoing and real threat.”

The report notes that one of al Qaeda’s objectives is to create a backlash against American Muslims, which would hand “our enemies a strategic victory by turning our communities against one another.” Engagement with local Muslims is a way to prevent “radicalization that leads to violence.” This is a far cry from official documents issued in the early years of the Obama administration, such as the Feb. 1, 2010, Quadrennial Homeland Security Review, that avoided any mention of Islamic radicalism. The shift in emphasis is most evident in the cover letter signed by President Obama, which mentions al Qaeda links to domestic incidents, “including the deadly attack two years ago on our service members at Fort Hood.”

At the time of the Fort Hood massacre, the Obama administration refused to link the incident to al Qaeda or even describe it as an act of domestic terrorism. It was classified originally as “violence in the workplace,” and the U.S. Army’s official force-protection review avoided any reference to shooting suspect Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s jihadist motives. A subsequent yearlong review by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee concluded that the Department of Defense and the FBI “collectively had sufficient information to have detected Hasan’s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism but failed both to understand and to act on it.”

The new blueprint is weak on details about how the federal government will engage local communities, and those that are listed don’t inspire confidence. For example, government should “provide a platform for communities to air grievances and contribute their views on policy and government” through convening forums, developing brochures and posting information on websites. The paper instructs that “the vast majority of our engagement work relates to issues outside the national-security arena, such as jobs, education, health and civil rights.” The problem is, the most violent and dangerous extremists tend to come from the more educated classes, so access to health care or other touchstones of the liberal domestic policy agenda aren’t the most effective means of dissuading terrorists.

It wouldn’t be out of character for the Obama administration to use this scheme to underwrite an expansion of social-service programs on the backs of law enforcement and counterterrorism budgets. This would give the White House a way to exploit the war on terrorism to pay for Obamacare.


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