Friday, October 2, 2009

When to Rally, When to Retreat

Thursday, October 1, 2009

By now, plenty of us are aware of the recent terror plots that were close to hatching on American soil – again. This time, without the intervention of law enforcement officers throughout the nation working together, we might have experienced another horrible loss of life as well as a major disruption to our daily ongoings as a country.

As we go through this experience, gathering the information behind the plots as sorting through the options to prepare us for other attempts, the Obama Administration comes to a fork in the road.

At an optimal time to rally the troops in order to keep us safe at home, it is also a grand opportunity - and event an excuse – to retreat from a previous course in action.

It has become a popular position politically to criticize the CIA for its tactics in the days post-September 11. To many, the rallying cry has not been in support of the men and women that work to keep America safe. Instead, the focal point has been whether America tortures its captives during the fury of war. Although the argument against torture has merits along moral, ethical, and legal lines, the definition of “torture” has undergone multiple variations as our levels of fear and paranoia have wavered over time. Leniency was given to garner information that would keep us safe in the immediate days after 9/11, a “benefit of the doubt” that we are not only withdrawing now, but are willing to overlook to the point of prosecuting some that have sought to protect us.

There may be a time and a place to reexamine our flawed behaviors and practices due to the trauma of September 11. However, at a time when our federal law enforcement officials are in desperate need of rallying support – especially in light of these recent developments with Najibullah Zazi and others – it is precisely the time when the Obama Administration (particularly Attorney General Eric Holder) should reconsider easing up on the investigative march towards criminal charges. A sound moral standing in the world community has merit, but it does not keep us as safe domestically from another terroristic attack as does a free and efficient system of federal enforcement that is unencumbered by a threat of 20-20 hindsight tactics years down the road.

This does not mean that we should open the doors to inhumane treatment, but it does mean that we should retreat from putting political expediency and world ethical renown above our sovereignty and safety, especially as we continue to see signs from both countries (e.g., Iran) and terror cells (e.g., the Zazi plot) that desperate times call for desperate (yet time-appropriate) measures before we are faced with more death and despair in the American mainland.

There is a time to clean up the affairs of federal agencies. There will be an opportunity to address our mistakes and correct our policies so that those that defend America can be good at their tasks while upholding our mantra in all aspects. However, with as many domestic agendas that the Obama Administration is chasing down (e.g., health care, turning around the economy, jobs creation) and the battles that it faces militarily (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, and potential terrorism around the world, including in America), the time for “hunting down” American borderline “war criminals” while we are in the process of pursuing murderers is not now. The heinous will be captured with our current policies. The rest must be fostered to keep us safe.

And before we rally our enemies to a new level of encouragement, we must make sure that we retreat from constraining those people we can count on the most.

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