Two devices were set off at the terminal phase of Boston’s historic marathon. They blew up, killing and wounding a number of citizens, children and adults. According to law enforcement sources, more bombs were set to explode but did not. These facts, and maybe more, compelled authorities to identify the bombing as a “Terror Act,” and both the Administration and Congress are dealing with the killings as such an attack. The main focus should be to determine who was behind the attack because the reason for it was pretty obvious: it was to terrorize the American public and to intimidate the U.S. Government. The “why” is clear; the “who” remains to be determined, and it could be quickly unveiled.
Though the Obama Administration announced to the nation after the killing of Bin Laden and al-Awlaki that “al-Qaeda is on the run and on its path of decline,” let that assertion not cast a shadow on realityWalid Phares
The Administration has to be very careful yet vigorous in addressing this attack on the homeland, regardless of who is behind it. Careful because in the case of domestic homegrown Terror, U.S. ultra-nationalist extremists have the capacity and have shown their ability to perform terror in a bloody fashion. The Oklahoma bombing of the mid-1990s is evidence of their capacity to improvise and strike decisively in urban areas. Their motives are ideological but also psychological. They are at war with their perception of the American Government. However, if the domestic extremist factor is involved, the Administration must rush to draw a line between terrorism and legitimate political opposition to Government. Any political error could fuel the extremist groups and alienate more citizens, giving the radicals a wider scope for recruitment. If this act or other possible future acts of terror come from U.S. based terrorism, the Administration should move to unite the aisles and isolate the extremists, right wing or left wing.
The jihadist possibility
If evidence confirms a “Jihadi” nature, which could occur as soon as perpetrators with links to al-Qaeda or sympathizers to the organization are identified, the Administration should move swiftly and resolutely. With the Benghazi debacle still on Americans minds, delaying such identification or describing it as a workplace or public café violence would be a disaster. If it is “Jihadi” linked or inspired, call it what it is and inform the American public that this is part of al- Qaeda’s war on America. Politics must be sidelined. Though the Obama Administration announced to the nation after the killing of Bin Laden and al-Awlaki that “al Qaeda is on the run and on its path of decline,” let that assertion not cast a shadow on reality. This country is in a state of War with al-Qaeda and its allies, foreign or domestic, and such attacks are part of that war, which since its start has never subscribed to international law or morality. And America is not alone in this struggle, for today’s Zawahiri Terrorists are striking in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia; it is a global confrontation, with strikes reaching U.S. soil as it slams other allies Overseas. The Boston massacre, if linked to self-described “Jihadists,” should not be seen strategically as out of the blue. In this case, it is part of a war that has never ended, an unfinished war that our withdrawal from Iraq, our projected pull out from Afghanistan, the elimination of old al-Qaeda figures and Washington siding with the Brotherhood in the Arab Spring, were not able to end. The investigation must be very thorough as “Jihadi Terrorism” could also be manipulated by the Iranian regime and its extensions such as Hezbollah. The world of terror is murky and complex. As in the Middle East, Tehran can use its own “Mujahidin” to send messages of intimidation to the U.S.
U.S. security policy needs revision
But whatever the inquiry will find out, the Boston massacre is evidence that U.S. national security policy needs revision. Better, clearer and transparent communications with the public have to be redesigned. American citizens must, like people in countries facing terrorism worldwide, be made aware that their daily lives are still at risk and thus the national defense effort is still a must.
In any case, this country is facing tremendous challenges and growing Terror threats. The targeting of men and women, girls and boys at peaceful and joyful events can happen anywhere, anytime, and our society must internalize this reality. The Boston attack was not the first indication of this, for there were many attempts in recent years. We always argued that one attempt we do not stop would become the one bloody disaster that would shock us but should not surprise us. This is a vision of urban warfare that the Terror forces have brought to our national soil. The enemy, domestic or foreign, is not packing up after this bloodshed; it will try to repeat its attempts. The Terrorists have no defined patterns which are going to show us predetermined paths for violence as some commentators naively pretend. Once inside “the belly of the beast,” as the enemy perceives America, every aspect of our lives can be targeted. We need to adapt and win.
Dr. Walid Phares is an advisor to the anti-Terrorism Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, the author of Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America. He has served on the Homeland Security Board of Advisors and the National Security Council Task Force on Nuclear Terrorism. Dr. Phares taught at the National Defense University since 2006. He has published several books in English, Arabic and French including the latest three post 9/11 volumes: Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against the West; The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy and The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad. Dr. Phares is Fox News Channel Middle East and Terrorism Expert. He has served as NBC Terrorism Analyst until 2006. He appears on international and Arab media and is published widely.