More than 2,500 years ago, Sun Tzu wrote “The Art of War.” In it, the Chinese strategist postulated: “One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a hundred engagements. … One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated.”
Two millenniums later, Prussian military theorist Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz wrote a detailed exposition on the principles of warfare. His book “On War” — published after his death in 1831 — posits, inter alia, that inadequate, incomplete or incorrect intelligence will inevitably contribute to the “fog of war” and lead to “unexpected developments” that can obscure “the objective” in a conflict.
Unfortunately for us, our elected and appointed leaders in Washington appear to be completely unfamiliar with those two works. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon terror attack, it is clear that those running our federal government — cocooned in federal buildings protected by high-tech security, metal detectors, bag searches, mail sensors and armed guards and convoyed to and fro in motorcades of armored limousines — know neither our enemy nor what we need to do about it. It’s not a new phenomenon. It’s just getting worse.
Thirty years ago, suicide bombers used car bombs to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63, including 17 Americans. In October 1983, a suicidal terrorist succeeded in detonating a truckload of explosives inside the U.S. Marine barracks near the Beirut airport. At the time, the word “jihad” and the phrase “radical Islamists” rarely were mentioned. Most of us in the counterterrorism business believed that those horrific events were related to the long-running Lebanese civil war and the never-ending Arab-Israeli conflict. We were wrong.
Now, three decades later — and with more than 4,000 Americans dead — there is no excuse for such willful ignorance. Radical Islamists are still at war with us — and still killing Americans. Unless our government accepts that fact, more Americans are likely to die at the hands of those waging jihad against us.
Regrettably, the Obama administration persists in treating acts perpetrated by jihadi terrorists as criminal behavior rather than as acts of war. In June 2009, native American Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad was arrested after killing one U.S. soldier and wounding another outside a Little Rock, AR, recruiting station. As he opened fire, he was heard to be shouting, “Allahu akbar!” He was treated as a common criminal.
Witnesses said that when they saw U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan open fire on his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in No-vember the same year, he shouted the same phrase — while killing 13 and wounding 32. He has been charged with criminal acts in a case of “workplace violence.”
On Christmas Day 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was apprehended in Detroit aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 after attempting to detonate a bomb concealed in his underwear. Though witnesses said he, too, shouted “Allahu akbar,” the Nigerian terrorist quickly was informed that he had the “right to remain silent” — Mirandized, in law enforcement vernacu-lar — instead of being interrogated and treated as an enemy combatant.
Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, was apprehended in May 2010, just days after street vendors noticed his SUV, parked in Manhattan’s crowded Times Square, was smoking. The NYPD bomb squad found the vehicle packed with homemade explosives. Shahzad was caught at Kennedy Airport attempting to board a flight to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He, too, was treated as a common criminal and is serving a life sentence.
On Sept. 11 of last year, radical Islamist militants launched well-coordinated hours-long assaults on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, during which four Americans were killed. At the end of April, five committees of the U.S. House of Representatives issued a report that chronicles Obama administration misfeasance and malfeasance before, during and after the attacks. Nonetheless, the White House continues to insist that al-Qaida is “decimated” and refuses to describe the attackers as radical Islamists. Despite presidential promises to “bring the perpetrators to justice,” no one has been apprehended.
Now there is the case of 19-year-old Chechen-born U.S. citizen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He’s still hospitalized under guard and accused as the sole surviving perpetrator in the 15 April Boston Marathon bombings, which killed three and wounded nearly 200. According to press reports, he was Mirandized after brief questioning by FBI agents to confirm that he and his brother had acted alone and that there were no other imminent threats.
The O-Team’s hollow rhetoric, dissembling and dubious record of effectiveness in fighting those who have declared war against us are especially troubling now that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. The President repeatedly has described this as a red line. The aftermath of the White House’s failure to articulate the true nature of the threat, identify who our adver-saries really are and devise a strategy for dealing with them bodes ill for protecting the American public here at home and U.S. interests overseas.
Editor’s note: Oliver North is a combat-decorated Marine. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served 22 years as a Marine. His service awards include the Silver Star, Bronze Star for Valor and two Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.