Look, Intelligence Failures Are Neither Democratic Nor Republican. Alas, They Are Both Non-Partisan and Bi-Partisan.

by Martin Peretz | January 7, 2010

I have made my own criticisms of President Obama and his administration's perspectives on the etiology of terrorism in the world. And the truth is that it is not yet clear in the president's head--or he is not yet being candid (which is my substitute for "frank" and "honest")--that you can't have a true view of routine mass murder in the contemporary world without having quite a harsh view of Islam today. It is unfair to the American people and to the peoples of the liberal world for the administration to pretend that the perpetrators of terror are not animated by some all-consuming ideology. It is not an abstraction that animates them. It is not a game of hide-and-seek with the CIA.

And, yes, of course, there are millions upon millions of Muslims--pious or more than a bit diffident--for whom Islam is a religious faith, a culture, and an anchor of personality. They are not part of the Islam which has been overwhelmed by the poisonous politics of the jihadists and those who routinely yield to them. It is time that the administration make this distinction. Unless it does, the responsibility for any confusion will rest with them. But that also means identifying the adversary in all its savagery.

Having said this, let me come to my basic point.

Looking at the bare escape from disaster in Detroit and the desolate facts behind it, there is no logic in blaming the current administration for the happening. In fact, if we want to blame and hold people responsible, I would pin much more responsibility on the previous government than on the present one simply because of the length of time it had at the helm. The all-crucial lists seem to have been in no better working shape on December 25, 2009 than on September 11, 2001. More or less the same mishaps, saved from a true calamity at the last second by the sheer incompetence of the terrorist himself and the alertness of a Dutch passenger behind him.

And, frankly, if we succeed in now "connecting the dots"--a dishonest formulation, in any case, given the seriousness of the matter--we can wonder what has been happening over the last eight-and-a-half years.

Rhetoric does not protect us. That requires administrative skill and departmental cooperation. These have apparently been elusive in the last presidency and in the current one. These require questions not only to Janet Napolitano, but to John O. Brennan. But questions also to Bush personnel and, to tell the truth, to Clinton personnel as well.

On other hand, one must grasp who our enemy is. And the fact is that Obama has not yet told us who he thinks it is. 

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