the State Department has announced that out of “an abundance of concern” 19 Embassies throughout the Muslim world will continue to be shut until the end of the week. Concern about an attack on Sunday, August 4 that did not happen, has now been extrapolated to extend through the end of Ramadan, which will occur mid-week.
Unfortunately, the very public closure of our official offices in foreign countries does several things, none of them good: it shows that we, the traditional leader of the free world, are afraid of al Qaeda threats. If no attacks occur while we have shut down, we will appear foolish in the eyes of the Muslim world, and if an attack had been planned for this week and postponed because of the shutdowns, we may be facing an even worse threat once we re-open our embassies. If the intelligence is credible and a threat was, in fact, real, the terrorists will simply bide their time until we are less prepared and strike when we are most vulnerable, as they always have.
Last year, the President proudly, if prematurely, announced that we had al Qaeda on the run. But now it is al Qaeda, if we are to understand this massive closure correctly, has America on the run.
Whether or not a major attack will take place this week, the threat from al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and a host of other terrorist organizations is very real and calls for vigilance all the time, security for our personnel, facilities, and citizens overseas, and a realistic understanding of the threat, unencumbered by political correctness or political expedience.
On August 2, the State Department announced that as a result of unspecified, but credible threats about potentially imminent al Qaeda attacks, diplomatic missions in 21 countries will be closed on Sunday, August 4 and a travel warning for Americans will last at least until the end of August. So non-specific were the apparent threats that the US response was equally non-specific, affecting US missions from the Sudan to Asia, without any indication as to whether any specific sites were identified as targets.
The threat seems to be emanating from Yemen, the home of AQAP (al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula) and the move was purportedly prompted by credible intelligence pointing to an al-Qaeda plot “against American diplomatic posts in the Middle East and other Muslim countries.” It is not clear what the closure of the embassies for one day will accomplish. As Muslims approach the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month, the period of greatest threats may not be until the end of Ramadan, specifically on the Night of Power, which falls on the 27th day of Ramadan. It is believed that on this night the Quran was revealed from Allah to Mohammed, and there is concern that this is the time that an attack by an al Qaeda group against a Western target may be planned. This is only one possibility. So much is yet unknown about the nature of the threat that analysts are more likely to guess what caused the administration to take such drastic actions.
Although the State Department did not list the affected embassies in their statement, FoxNews identified seventeen of the missions, listing Amman, Baghdad, Kuwait City, Kabul, Manama, Dhaka, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Sana’a, Riyadh, Cairo, Tripoli, Algiers, Nouakchott, Khartoum, and Djibouti.
The State Department also warned American travelers to “take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.” It also warned travelers in the affected countries that consular services might not be available to them in an emergency and that they should take that into account when making their travel plans.
The consequences of such dramatic actions are far reaching and send a message, once again, that America is weak and would rather pull back from a confrontation than face it with appropriate strength and conviction. In deciding how to respond to the intelligence, the State Department had two choices – to enhance security around the affected missions and to protect the personnel and property there, or to back away from the threat with our proverbial tail between our legs. They chose the latter. It was the wrong choice, because by showing our unwillingness to stand up to the threat, we have empowered the enemy to be even more bold, knowing that, just as in Benghazi, America will not respond or retaliate, but rather we will retreat. It left Americans traveling or living in those countries more vulnerable and helpless in the face of terrorism than citizens of the world’s most powerful nation should ever be.
If our government understood the psychological perspective of our enemies, in this case al Qaeda, our leaders would be able to develop appropriate responses to threats of this kind, rather than exercise the knee jerk reaction to either ignore (as in Benghazi) or flee from the threat. In the Middle East, the one who deals from a position of strength is the one who has the upper hand. Negotiating with terrorists is dooming your side to failure. Bowing to their power is admitting defeat, even before the confrontation begins.
The State Department’s action was not unlike Governor Duval Patrick’s decision to close the city of Boston for several days, following the Boston Marathon bombing, and will no doubt have a similar effect. It was a case study in what not to do. It disempowered the people of Boston and made them afraid. Moreover, that decision will undoubtedly be studied by future terrorists and will be used to embolden them for a long time to come, unless we get smarter and change our basic approach to dealing with terrorism – both before an attack and afterwards.
Today’s decision underscored the principle displayed in Boston. Prior to a terrorist attack, the goal should be to present the strongest position possible to create the strongest deterrent. After an attack, the aim should be to return to normalcy as quickly as possible. It is not possible to guarantee that an attack will never take place, but in both cases, a strong and determined face against terrorism is the only effective approach to deter or prevent most of them. It empowers the people, and defeats the enemy. It also discourages future attacks by presenting stronger, not weaker, barriers to success.
From the beginning of the Obama administration’s feckless five years in office, America’s influence has been dangerously weakened throughout the world. Obama’s policy of appeasement and apology, which began with his apology tour to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Germany at the beginning of his first term, has weakened America’s ability to make a positive difference in a world that is slowly falling into economic and social chaos.
The administration’s approach to Iran’s developing nuclear weapons program has been to engage in open-ended ‘negotiations’, while giving Teheran the time it needs to complete the job. In thet mean time, the US has been gun-running SAM missiles from Libya to the Syrian opposition (which includes forces from al Qaeda), and no one has been held accountable. It has been ten months since the Benghazi attack on 9/11/12; four men died and over 30 were injured, but no one has been held accountable.
It is no wonder that al Qaeda now feels emboldened. If the State Department’s intelligence is credible and an attack against Americans is imminent, it is our own foreign policy and lack of cross-cultural understanding over the last five years that history will ultimately blame. And it will be President Barack Obama, and his unwillingness to keep America strong in the face of our enemies, who will be held most accountable.
The full State Department travel alert appears below.