Having been privy to some of the internal discussions since the Ft. Hood massacre, some additional interrelated problems need to be addressed. The first is what I call “classified blindness.” Not just in military circles, but throughout law enforcement there is a widely held belief that if information isn’t classified in some manner, it isn’t worth their attention. And if the information isn’t classified as at least top secret, it certainly isn’t actionable intelligence. Even though ninety-five percent of what they need to know is available through open sources.
Admittedly, there are important snippets of information only available through classified collections. Having seen some of this “classified” material, I have to admit that I’m not impressed. The fact remains, however, that both Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the Little Rock killer, and Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood killer, were already known to law enforcement before their attacks and still nothing was done to diffuse the threat. So there must be other forces at work.
Another culprit is what I term “analysis blindness.” As I speak with military anti-terrorism and force protection officials, I’m finding that many, if not most, don’t have the subject matter proficiency to even be able to understand what they are reading.
One real world example was a discussion I had with a senior analyst for a top military anti-terrorism group. This well-paid analyst, who is no doubt dedicated to the job and trying to do it to the best of his ability, could not tell the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet this individual is daily analyzing intelligence required to keep our military forces safe and secure.
As my colleague Lt. Col. Joseph Myers has repeatedly observed, the military’s force protection staff are rarely well-read in the field of Islamic terrorism, though many have graduate degrees in national security studies and the like.
An additional problem I have identified is “bureaucratic blindness,” meaning that the military force protection leadership spends the bulk of their time engaged in paper shuffling, budget requests, and staffing issues. Not to discount the necessity of planning and stewarding scarce resources, but when our force protection leaders are required to be little more than administrators and bureaucrats we shouldn’t be surprised when the focus on protecting the troops falls to the wayside.
Finally, there is a larger systemic problem at work. At its root, our military leaders do not understand the threat they are facing. Officers who have been trained in counterinsurgency tactics and exemplified courage in the face of a lethal enemy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere seem completely unprepared to deal with the same enemy at home.
Senior Pentagon commanders have labored to define the threat out of existence –see the Department of Defense’s Ft. Hood report. Rather than acknowledge the proliferation of jihadist ideology and the threat it poses to our U.S.-based troops, these officials describe the problem as random, and ultimately unknowable, “violent extremism” (the favored term of the Obama administration).
Pretending that the threat is random and unknowable gives them license to do nothing. The fact is that the jihadist threat can be precisely defined, studied, and identified. It is the ability to understand the ever-evolving problem and the will to do something about it that is sorely lacking.
What my first-hand experience has taught me these past few months speaking with and to our military leadership concerning the domestic jihadist threat confirms that the status quo with respect to force protection has cost soldiers their lives. By doubling-down on those failed policies, our troops are now more vulnerable than ever.
And by ignoring the need to counter the jihadists’ tactics and targeting, many more will die.