On Closed Embassies, the Worldwide Travel Alert, and Wimpitude
by Daniel Pipes
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In April, the city of Boston was effectively under military curfew because two terrorists were on the loose. Now, fears of al-Qaeda attacking has led the U.S. government temporarily to close 21 U.S. embassies in Muslim-majority countries and then issue a worldwide travel alert announcing that "Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure."
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said that the two steps result from "a significant threat stream" and so the authorities "are taking it seriously."
(1) Don't know about you, but I find this pre-emptive cringing unworthy of a great country, even humiliating. Why do we allow a bunch of extremist thugs to close us down, rather than the reverse? For what purpose do we pay for the world's best military and largest intelligence services if not to protect ourselves from this sort of threat?
(2) This timidity fits into a larger pattern that I have long found reprehensible. Here's a comment of mine from 1998 I should like to resurrect, that responded to the double bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania almost exactly fifteen years ago, on Aug. 7, 1998:
Deterrence, not shuttering the bunkers we call embassies, is the solution. Maybe Obama's successor will understand this imperative.
(3) How interesting that the same State Department that issued this world wide terror alert and temporarily shut down 21 diplomatic missions due to fears of a terrorist attack is the same institution that pressured Israel to release 104 terrorists. Is the place stupid, or what? (August 3, 2013)
Aug. 4, 2013 update: What wimps! The temporary closure was scheduled for one day only, today, and now has been extended to a whole week, through Aug. 10 for 19 of the 21 facilities. Why? According to the Wall Street Journal,
Comment: For some reason, this feebleness in the face of a miniscule terrorist group brings to mind Winston Churchill's comment in Ottawa on Dec. 30, 1941. Referring to the French and to their collaborationist government under Philippe Pétain, he said: "When I warned them that Britain would fight on alone whatever they did, their generals told their prime minister and his divided Cabinet, 'In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.' Some chicken! Some neck!"
Aug. 5, 2013 update: Now we learn from unnamed American officials via the New York Times that the mission closures resulted from intercepted conversations last week between Ayman al-Zawahri, the head of Al-Qaeda, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the head of its Yemeni affiliated, detailing "one of the most serious plots against American and Western interests since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001."
(1) How do they know that this conversation was not about a bogus plot?
(2) Why are they disclosing American capabilities in this fashion?
The whole operation reeks of ineptitude.
Aug. 6, 2013 update: The State Department has evacuated much of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and urged all Americans to leave the country immediately. To which, the Yemeni government answered with common sense, saying that the evacuation "serves the interests of the extremists." State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki lamely disputed the Yemeni assertion, stating that the decision to evacuate Americans for safety reasons speaks for itself. Meanwhile, jihadis gloated on the internet about the embassy closures, boasting that they created a "nightmare" for the United States.
Aug. 9, 2013 update: Reuven Berko, a former adviser on Arab affairs to the chief of the Jerusalem police, writes: "The U.S.'s decision to shutter its embassies and send diplomatic staff home perhaps served the aims of radical Islam even more than the aftermath of an actual terrorist attack." Indeed.
Aug. 11, 2013 update: Angelo M. Codevilla , an eminent analyst on intelligence, argues that the U.S. government got snookered by Al-Qaeda into closing the diplomatic missions:
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