Counterterrorism in the US vs. Israel Its a Question of Balance
The last twelve months have seen a record number of terrorist plots targeted toward the US mainland. Several succeeded in their deadly plots, others got past government counterterrorism efforts and failed only because of divine providence, and the terrorists own incompetence.
Since the near-tragedy on Christmas Day, many have challenged the effectiveness of U.S. policy under President Obama. Some of the criticism has been valid; the mis-handling of the no fly list, the moving of trials and interrogations to the civilian court system, and the refusal of the administration to call our enemy by name (even on internal deliberations) are all symptoms of what’s wrong with America’s counterterrorism efforts.
Fighting against terrorism, an evil which rejects all the basic moral and legal norms of civilized society, is inherently difficult for liberal democracies such as the United States. It forces the democracy to find the right balance between the protection of civil liberties on one hand with the prevention of violence on the other. Many of the issues in front of our policymakers have previously been faced by Israel, a country that has been under the threat terrorist attack since its inception in 1948.
Israeli counterterrorism efforts have a simple philosophy, “Do whatever it takes to identify and defend against potential attacks before they happen.” This approach does not change whether there is a left or right wing Prime Minister in power, which is a reflection of public support. For Israel, the fight against terrorism is a fight for its very survival. Thus her government and citizenry take a different view of counterterrorism, unencumbered by the political correctness which restrains efforts in the United States.
There would never be, for example, a debate in Israel whether a terrorist should be questioned by civilian or military authorities; extracting information that will prevent the next attack is paramount. Debate is also virtually non-existent regarding whether certain ethnic groups should be watched more closely than others.
Over 2,500 years ago, Sun Tzu, wrote in his treatise called The Art of War,
“Know the enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles you will never be in peril. When you are ignorant of the enemy, but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal.”
Know thy enemy is a key component of Israel’s counterterrorism efforts. Her government is not afraid to identify her attackers as radical Muslim terrorists. This Identification allows her counterterrorism experts to include background and religion as input when trying to predict the actions of terrorist groups, creating an analysis that is more sound and useful.
Even before Obama was elected, the US was too politically correct to include religion as a predictor of terrorist activities. In fact the government purged people who espoused that religion be included. In January 2008, the Pentagon fired Stephen Coughlin, its resident expert on sharia and jihad because he challenged the politically correct view that Islam had nothing to do with terrorism. As the military expert on sharia, Coughlin taught, “The jihad…is essentially an instrument of revival, employed for the purpose of extending the frontiers of Islam and leading the faithful back to roots.”
Beyond predicting the actions of terrorists, freedom to fully identify her adversaries allows Israel to use a very important tool in fighting terror, racial profiling. Racial profiling is used openly by security forces in Israel, and they make no apologies about it.
Anti-terror efforts never have enough resources, profiling allows security personnel at airports for example, to concentrate only on those most likely to be terrorists. Ethnicity is only one of the factors in a profile; religion, general appearance and behavior are some the others. Those who are deemed to be “suspect” are pulled aside for more intensive questioning. Thanks, in part to profiling, there has not been terrorist incident on an airplane leaving Israel since 1970, why may be why the practice generates little protest even from the most liberal of Israeli citizens.
Profiling of passengers is not only performed on outgoing flights, but on people flying into Israel on Israeli airline such as El Al and people entering the country through customs, and military checkpoints, allowing the country to do a superior job in keeping terrorists out of the country.
The United States is too often bound by the constraints of political correctness to use profiling as a tool. Even the hint of profiling is bound to raise “wrath of God” type implications: Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky, Rivers and seas boiling! Years of darkness! Dead rising from the grave, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, a 24 hour-a-day Barney the Dinosaur Channel, and of course, Al Sharpton ranting in front of the nearest TV camera.
On the other hand imagine what would have happened if the US used profiling before 9/11, or if Times Square terrorist, Faisal Shahzad was profiled during one of his trips to Pakistan.
As the United States defends against the ever expanding threat of Muslim terror, right here on our home turf, success depends on throwing off the shackles of political correctness and adopting the methods of our ally Israel.
During her 62 year fight against terror, Israel has achieved a balance between protection of civil liberties and the prevention of violence. Her decision was that the sanctity of saving human lives outweighs the targeting and possible inconvenient questioning of a few. Or, in the words of that great philosopher Gene Simmons of KISS fame;
I think we should be racially profiling anybody from the Middle East … and as an Israeli; I want you to look at me first. I want you to search my anal cavity and look at my tax records. I want you to look at me first, and then at every guy named Muhammad.
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