This is pretty embarrassing from the counter-terrorism shop West Point Center. It’s not just that it totally ignores radical left wing terrorism. The problem is that it uses too broad a brush to paint far right extremism as it tries to connect skin-head, militia type radicalism to mainstream conservatism.
And the fact that the author has a 2nd grade understanding of conservatism doesn’t help, either.
A West Point think tank has issued a paper warning America about “far right” groups such as the “anti-federalist” movement, which supports “civil activism, individual freedoms and self-government.”
Gee – I don’t know about you but supporting “individual freedoms and self-government” sounds like terrorism to me. Anyone who flies a Gadsen flag should be on a watch list. While they’re at it, they should round up Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and James Madison just to be safe.
The report issued this week by the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., is titled “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right.”
The center — part of the institution where men and women are molded into Army officers — posted the report Tuesday. It lumps limited government activists with three movements it identifies as “a racist/white supremacy movement, an anti-federalist movement and a fundamentalist movement.”
The West Point center typically focuses reports on al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists attempting to gain power in Asia, the Middle East and Africa through violence.
But its latest study turns inward and paints a broad brush of people it considers “far right.”
It says anti-federalists “espouse strong convictions regarding the federal government, believing it to be corrupt and tyrannical, with a natural tendency to intrude on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights. Finally, they support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self government. Extremists in the anti-federalist movement direct most their violence against the federal government and its proxies in law enforcement.”
Why “anti-federalists?” I think he means “anti-government” where citizens see Washington as the enemy. That view may hold true for many on the right but to the extent that it results in terrorism, examples please.
Finally, there’s this bit of nonsense:
The report also draws a link between the mainstream conservative movement and the violent “far right,” and describes liberals as “future oriented” and conservatives as living in the past.
“While liberal worldviews are future- or progressive -oriented, conservative perspectives are more past-oriented, and in general, are interested in preserving the status quo.” the report says. “The far right represents a more extreme version of conservatism, as its political vision is usually justified by the aspiration to restore or preserve values and practices that are part of the idealized historical heritage of the nation or ethnic community.”
The report adds: “While far-right groups’ ideology is designed to exclude minorities and foreigners, the liberal-democratic system is designed to emphasize civil rights, minority rights and the balance of power.”
The report says there were 350 “attacks initiated by far-right groups/individuals” in 2011.
Details about what makes an attack a “far right” action are not clear in the report, which was written by Arie Perliger, who directs the center’s terrorism studies and teaches social sciences at West Point.
Were there really 350 attacks by far right individuals and groups in 2011? If the past is any indication, such a list might include attacks on police officers from an individual who has conservative books and magazines in his home. For example, an incident in Louisiana that killed 2 police officers occurred while the police were “investigating attack that injured another officer; 7 arrested, 2 of whom were injured in the shootout; several of those arrested had ties to the sovereign citizen movement.” Was the initial attack on a police officer motivated by politics? We don’t know. It’s also possible that police fired first, which would put an entirely different spin on the incident.
No one doubts the existence of racist and hate-filled groups that require monitoring. But both the DHS and West Point reports read as if they were laying the groundwork for a rhetorical attack on mainstream conservatism of the sort that President Clinton launched in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, when he blamed talk radio for stirring up anti-government passions. No one should be surprised if supporters of new gun-control measures begin justifying them by referring to the West Point report.
The Obama administration raised eyebrows back in 2009 when Janet Napolitano’s DHS substituted the phrase “man-made disasters” for the dangers posed by Islamic terrorism. My sources inside Congress tell me they continue to worry that efforts to monitor domestic Muslim extremists as well as interdiction efforts against radical Islamists crossing the U.S. border are sometimes put on the back burner. The government denies this, but it seems to me its protestations would be more persuasive if it spent less time producing half-baked warnings about the danger of “right-wing extremists.”
Given the FBI’s infiltration of many radical left wing groups, we must assume they do the same to the right. But as the Sikh temple shootings show, there is far more danger from mentally unbalanced, lone wolf terrorists whose ideological leanings are largely irrelevant to their violence than there is from middle aged fat men running around the woods with an M-16. While militias and other far right wing groups can be a danger and should be watched (as should their counterparts on the left), history shows that political violence in America is rare and studies attempting to create an atmosphere of suspicion surrounding mainstream ideologues — right or left — distract from the real problem of domestic extremism.