The claims about the actual threat these fellows posed have reached quite a fever pitch, as have the claims about the role of citizen "John Does" -- heavily touted by Michelle Malkin -- in the arrests. Suffice to say that the evidence so far does not suggest that this gang was any more likely to actually succeed than the Tri States Militia, which planned a similar attack on Fort Hood, Texas, back in 1997.
But what does stand out about the case is that it was in fact predicated on a long and careful investigation by the FBI -- one that took, in fact, 16 months to put together.
That is to say: These arrests were based upon the law-enforcement approach to terrorism.
Funny that the chief cheerleaders for declaring this case a model of the Future of Terra in America haven't acknowledged that fact.
Malkin provides a nice, clear example. In previous posts, she has complained about "the limitations of the law enforcement approach to terrorism", and sneered at Democrats for supposedly adopting "the Clinton law enforcement approach to terrorism" (a sneer repeated here). She also has approvingly cited NRO's Andrew McCarthy saying that
- the law enforcement approach to terrorism, where terrorists get the advantage of our generous due process standards (including discovery about informants), is nuts -- we have to tell the bad guys too much.
Well, we've said it many times:
- The Bush approach has been to treat terrorism as though it were a phenomenon mostly related to unrest in the Middle East, the product of brown-skinned fanatics for whom the only adequate response is the full force of American military might. This approach largely treats terrorism as though it exists only in conjunction with a handful of states -- the "Axis of Evil" -- that support it, and containing it means bombing and killing its supporters out of existence.
This was, in essence, the rationale for invading both Afghanistan and Iraq. In the case of Afghanistan, certainly a military response is fully justified, since the state connection to terrorism is clear and unmistakable. In the case of Iraq, however, that connection remains far from clear; though at one time I thought evidence existed to suggest such a connection, it has become painfully clear since that any Iraqi sponsorship of terrorism, particularly al Qaeda, was thin at best.
More to the point, however, is the fact that by making the "War on Terror" primarily a military operation and only secondarily (at best) a matter for law enforcement and intelligence, the Bush administration is focusing on only a rather narrow part of the terrorism spectrum. (Even on those terms, as Matt Yglesias has ably demonstrated, Bush's execution of the "war on terror" has in fact largely consisted of smoke, mirrors, shock and awe.)
The reality: Terrorism is a global phenomenon. It takes the shape not of a singular or even related ideology, but the idiosyncratic form of whatever extremism gives it birth. It is amorphous, and highly corpuscular, sometimes effectively emanating from extremely small groups or even individuals. And it is every bit as alive and well in America as it is in the Middle East.
This has many ramifications, not the least of which is that emphasizing the military component to any effective assault on terrorism -- and there are instances, such as Afghanistan, when a military solution indeed is required -- has an extraordinarily negative effect, particularly if military operations are undertaken through fraudulent circumstances, as in the invasion of Iraq. ...
Any kind of serious War on Terror needs to have the flexibility to respond proportionately and nimbly to various terrorist threats as they manifest themselves, and in this respect a military emphasis is simply too musclebound to be effective. A comprehensive approach will emphasize intelligence and law enforcement -- especially global law enforcement, the very concept of which is anathema to the Bush administration -- while reserving its military options, fraught as they are with multiple collateral hazards, solely for the rare circumstances that warrant them.
You'd like to think the right-wing bloggers might at some point develop enough self-awareness to recognize this. But since we're talking about a right wing that is single-mindedly predicated around naming the Enemy and then scapegoating it, that doesn't seem likely.