Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has maintained his willful ignorance of the fact that weakness against terrorists abroad, coupled with weakness against them at home, add up to more than the sum of their parts. To defeat terrorists, we need to have policies at home and strategies abroad that are integrated and support each other.
From the State Department came a petition of dissent, signed by dozens of employees, asking for military action against Syria’s Bashar Assad. If many in the State Department — the last bastion of diplomatic wimpery — are calling for military action, the president’s policies must have disintegrated.
And they have, as CIA Director John Brennan said last week. Mr. Brennan said that two years of President Obama’s war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, haven’t even disrupted its ability to conduct terrorist attacks globally. This despite the president’s insistence that ISIS is suffering low morale and loss of territory.
The Orlando nightclub massacre, committed by a man claiming allegiance to ISIS, leaves Mr. Obama’s shattered policies in stark relief.
In a press conference shortly after the mass murder, FBI Director James Comey seemed almost apologetic. Though his agency had interviewed the jihadi mass murderer three times since 2013, Mr. Comey explained that the FBI had done all it could.
Mr. Comey has nothing to be apologetic about. The FBI isn’t permitted to surveil mosques and other places where intelligence is most likely to be gathered. The FBI can only investigate and arrest someone on the basis of probable cause to believe that the person has committed a crime. Political correctness has even removed FBI training materials about radical Islam and jihad.
Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, perhaps the two most politically correct people alive, insist that Islam and the Islamic State (to which Omar Mateen pledged allegiance) have nothing to do with his motive for killing forty-nine people.
Nonsense and double nonsense. When Donald Trump ridiculed the president for his political correctness in refusing to say the words “radical Islam,” Mr. Obama’s enraged response was highly revealing. He insisted that defining the enemy by calling it by the name they call themselves doesn’t help fight the enemy. That is more than political correctness. It’s a literal bar to defeating that enemy.
We must do better, and we can. We can remove the political correctness barrier but only by voting in sufficient numbers to defeat all of the politicians who take refuge in it instead of debating and creating the policies necessary to defeat the terrorists. That might happen in November, and it might not.
Dealing with the terrorists at home, we have to remember what Ben Franklin wrote in 1755 in another context. Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” We can heed Franklin’s admonition and still do a far better job of defeating terrorists abroad and protecting ourselves from them at home.
What we do abroad will lessen attacks at home. ISIS, al Qaeda and the rest believe themselves safe from our attacks. And they’re right, as long as we allow them safe havens and fight them half-heartedly in the manner Mr. Obama chooses.
We need to fight the war on our terms, not theirs. No nation should be allowed to grant terrorists safe haven, nor to fund, man or arm them. Our aircraft and special operations troops should attack terrorists whenever and wherever they are found. All our financial expertise should be turned to preventing any nation or company from doing business with them.
Just as importantly, we need to throw away the limits on our intelligence and psychological warfare forces imposed by political correctness. Central to our effort must be to fight the ideological war the enemy has fought at least since Osama bin Laden’s 1996 fatwa that declared war on America. When Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton refuse to even say — despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary — that Islam is the motivation for terrorist attacks such as the Orlando nightclub massacre, they are helping the enemy fight the ideological war.
At home, there are lines we must not cross. We can enable our intelligence apparatus and protect Americans’ rights just as Franklin admonished us to.
Intelligence is, and will always be, the most powerful weapon we have in this war. It’s simply dumb to deny the National Security Agency and the FBI the ability to conduct surveillance of people who aren’t U.S. citizens even while on U.S. soil. If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act needs to be modified to enable that surveillance without infringing on Fourth Amendment rights, it should be done. The FISA programs run by the CIA and NSA during the Bush years need to be restored.
As John Brennan also said last week, ISIS and other terrorist networks are infiltrating terrorists among refugees. Mr. Comey said months ago that we have no means of vetting refugees for connections to terrorism. Under those circumstances, it is sheer madness to be admitting refugees from terrorist-dominated nations such as Syria.
Expanding the powers of law enforcement and limiting immigration from those nations lessen the danger of more terrorist attacks here, but they are no defense against attacks by U.S. citizens such as Mateen. As long as people such as he can hide among unassimilated Muslims, these attacks will continue.
Political correctness is deadly in wartime. Old Ben was right, but we can heed his admonition without losing our freedoms or our nation.
• Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research and the author of “In the Words of Our Enemies.”