Nearly lost in the holiday weekend was a remarkable show of bipartisan agreement that under this president we are now less safe. The exchange came on CNN’s “State of the Union” between Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D- Calif.) and House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.):
CROWLEY: The big question that’s always asked, are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago? In general?
FEINSTEIN: I don’t think so. I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that, the fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnetometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups that ever and there’s huge malevolence out there.
CROWLEY: So congressman, I have to say, that is not the answer I expected. I expected to hear, oh, we’re safer. Do you agree?
ROGERS: Oh, I absolutely agree that we’re not safer today for the same very reasons.
So the pressures on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it’s getting more difficult because we see the al-Qaeda as we knew it before is metastasizing to something different, more affiliates than we’ve ever had before, meaning more groups that operated independently of al-Qaeda have now joined al-Qaeda around the world, all of them have at least some aspiration to commit an act of violence in the United States or against western targets all around the world.
They’ve now switched to this notion that maybe smaller events are okay. So if you have more smaller events than bigger events, they think that might still lead to their objectives and their goals. That makes it exponentially harder for our intelligence services to stop an event like that.
CROWLEY: Because essentially one person can do a small event.
CROWLEY: So, one of the things that the senator said was that there is more hatred out there, more — and why is that?
FEINSTEIN: I think there is a real displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist, jihadist, Islamic community. And that is that the West is responsible for everything that goes wrong, and that the only thing that’s going to solve this is Islamic Sharia law and the concept of the caliphate. And I see more groups, more fundamentalists, more jihadists more determined to kill to get to where they want to get. So, it’s not an isolated phenomenon. You see these groups spread a web of connections. And this includes North Africa, it includes the Middle East, it includes other areas as well.
That is a remarkable admission on a number of levels. First, unlike the president, who abhors using the terms “jihadist” or “Islamic fundamentalist” to describe the threat, Feinstein comes right out and correctly labels our foe, one that has metastasized far and wide. Second, the lawmakers’ no-nonsense agreement stands in direct contrast both to the president’s chest-thumping after Osama bin Laden’s assassination and to his claim that a decade of war is “ending.” The president’s assertions about our national security, it turns out, are no more reliable than his promises about our insurance plans. Third, if we are less safe than before, then ending enhanced interrogation, bugging out of Iraq and Afghanistan, slashing the military, fixating on the non-existent peace process, picking fights with allies, allowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power and leading from behind haven’t worked, and they’ve arguably made things worse. And, finally, the lawmakers don’t really raise the biggest national security threat, one that unquestionably is more potent than when Obama took office: Iran. Not only is a nearly nuclear-armed Iran a threat all by itself to its neighbors and to the West, but it is the largest state sponsor of terrorism, and it may soon have the ability to provide its patrons with weapons of mass destruction.
Feinstein and Rogers confirm a reality that is both unpleasant and of vital importance. Naturally, the administration will ignore it. It should command the attention of both parties in Congress and of those who seek to succeed Obama. The president has failed in his central function as commander in chief — and his failure will only become more frightening as Iran marches ahead toward nuclear weapons capability.