The jihad rages on, but the War on Terror is over.
There is no longer a national-security consensus — no longer the political support for wartime defense measures, much less offensive combat operations. While the enemy continues to fight, our will to break the enemy’s will has vanished. After a contentious week, that much is clear. The controversy swirling around shadowy intelligence programs hasn’t gotten to the bottom of those programs, but it tells us everything we need to know about . . . us.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s dog that did not bark is a metaphor worn out by journalists. This week, though, the lack of a bark was loud and clear: The bark of the national-security Right defending the wartime powers of the presidency. For a variety of reasons, many of the protagonists have developed amnesia about how we came to have the programs now provoking all the cavil: the debates over the PATRIOT Act and FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).
After a series of attacks through the Nineties, the 9/11 atrocities destroyed the World Trade Center, struck the Pentagon, and killed nearly 3,000 Americans. In the savage clarity, our nation finally realized that what I’ve called “kinetic Islam” — a combination of militant jihadists and their sharia-supremacist enablers — was at war with the United States. The PATRIOT Act was a product of our vigorous and persuasive contention, on the national-security right, that the challenge was an enemy force, not a criminal-justice problem. That challenge demanded a national war-footing, not judicial due process.
It was precisely this contention, moreover, that beat back the Left’s effort to intrude the judiciary into the collection of foreign intelligence — constitutionally, a paradigm executive function — when FISA was overhauled in 2008.