This past week, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) provided remarks to the Heritage Foundation as Protect America Month kicked off. Outlining the ongoing threats facing the United States, Rep. Cantor emphasized two issues of pressing importance: global nuclear proliferation and domestic and foreign terrorism.
“Today we live in an increasingly dangerous world. America faces the twin threats of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. Warning sounds abound, whether they be the failed attacks in an airplane on Christmas Day or in a parked car in Times Square,” Cantor said.
Rep. Cantor was correct in emphasizing these threats and a plethora of recent events supports the notion that the United States is continually, and perhaps increasingly, endangered by these phenomena.
On May 1, a recently naturalized American citizen, Faisal Shahzad, was alleged to have placed a car bomb in the middle of Times Square in New York City. Only through the keen observations of a citizen and the subsequent intervention of law enforcement was a disaster averted. Although many in the public and media initially sought to describe the alleged perpetrator as a seemingly incompetent lone wolf, evidence suggests otherwise.
Shahzad is said to have recently traveled to Pakistan and links between him and the Islamic-fundamentalist group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, otherwise known as the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, underscore the evolving nature of the terrorist threats facing the United States.
Yemeni-American cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki recently implored jihadists to take the fight directly to American soil. No longer can the American government and national security apparatus remain complacent and focused on Islamic terrorism as both solely foreign-derived and foreign-based. An increasing number of domestic born Islamic fundamentalists appear to be the next wave of foot soldiers in an increasingly fragmented global effort at jihad.
Adding to the sobering reality of foreign and domestic acts of terror, the recent rant of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations continued to emphasize the ongoing threat posed by his nation’s desire to obtain nuclear weapons. Predictably, Ahmadinejad attacked the United States and Israel.
“Regrettably, the United States has not only used nuclear weapons, but also continues to threaten to use such weapons against other countries, including my country,” Ahmadinejad stated, attempting to turn the tables on nuclear negotiations against the United States.
The acerbic Iranian leader did not reserve all of his vitriol for the United States. “Although the Zionist regime stockpiles hundreds of nuclear warheads, wages numerous wars in the Middle East region, and continues to threaten the people and nations of the region with acts of terror and threats of invasion, it enjoys the unconditional support of the Unites States government and its allies and receives the necessary assistance to develop a nuclear weapons program.”
This type of rhetoric is to be expected by the Iranian leader; however the actions of many of the national delegations in attendance at the U.N. during his speech provided greater insight into the likely unsuccessful nature of the Obama administration’s strategy toward containing the Iranian nuclear threat.
Predicated on a desire to effect biting sanctions against Iran in hopes of deterring her pursuit of nuclear weapons, the Obama administration has staked its success on obtaining the complicity of Russia and China in those endeavors. While Ahmadinejad insulted the world at the dais of the United Nations, several national delegations walked out of the room, including the United States, France, Britain, and Germany. Firmly remaining in their respective seats during Ahmadinejad’s charade were the Russian and Chinese delegations.
As Protect America Month continues, U.S. interests would be well served if the warnings opined by Representative Cantor were heeded and not simply overlooked until the next potential disaster affecting the homeland becomes known. The Times Square attempted bombing, the attack on Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan, the Christmas Day underwear bomber, and the murder of a soldier outside of a military recruiting center in Arkansas in June of 2009 provide recent examples of the increasingly domestic face of Islamic-fundamentalism.
Additionally, the current path of appeasing two Iranian benefactors in the hopes of eliciting their support for sanctions against Iran is both naive and misguided. Sanctions capable of rendering Iran complicit to U.S. and European demands that it abandon its nuclear program will not likely be achieved with continued Russian and Chinese intransigence in the matter. Having previously abandoned two missile defense installations in Europe in an attempt to appease Russian resistance to their placement, the U.S. risks further undermining her own national security in what could amount to a very costly game of unrealized diplomacy.
The threat of global nuclear proliferation and the increasingly relevant phenomenon of domestic-born acts of terror underscore the importance of approaching these issues from a realistic position of strength. No longer can lofty rhetoric and diplomatic ideals alone address the dangers facing America. Vigilance and a firm commitment to the principles of peace through strength will remain the cost of security. As Rep. Cantor stated, “Yet at the very moment our enemies are advancing – and our friends are nervously watching – this proven U.S. national security strategy appears to be in a rapid state of retreat. After 16 months, many of the Obama administration’s policies reflect a fundamentally different ideological approach to foreign policy and national strategy.”
Scott G. Erickson has worked in the field of law enforcement for the past decade and holds both his B.S. and M.S. in Criminal Justice Studies. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.