One year ago today, Seal Team Six landed in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and succeeded in bringing Osama bin Laden to ultimate justice. Though some may wish to bask in the glow of that success, now is not the time to celebrate or lay down arms. Bin Laden may be dead, but serious threats against the United States live on, both here in the homeland and around the globe.
President Obama, though, is using the occasion to boost his re-election efforts with a self-congratulatory campaign ad. Heritage’s James Carafano writes, “If Lincoln had spent the entire Gettysburg Address talking about himself, it wouldn’t have been quite that crass.” And last night, the president made a campaign stop in Afghanistan where he delivered a speech remarking that the “dark cloud of war” is breaking way to “the light of a new day on the horizon” as U.S. troops continue to be withdrawn from the country. “This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end,” he declared.
But hours before the president spoke, Americans received a stark reminder that threats do not end at the time and place of our choosing. Late Monday, the FBI arrested five self-proclaimed anarchists who had planted what they believed to be explosives at the base a bridge over Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio as part of the international May Day protest. Thankfully, law enforcement foiled their plot, and the men were using inoperable explosives obtained from an undercover FBI agent.
Unlike previous attempted terrorist attacks, the Ohio plot was not inspired by Islamism or hatched in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan. However, Islamist-inspired terrorist threats are by no means a thing of the past. Since 9/11, at least 50 Islamist-inspired plots against the homeland have been thwarted through the concerted efforts of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement. Without a doubt, more attempts are being hatched, and a target remains painted on American soil. Shrinking the U.S. military or retreating from the world stage will do nothing to diminish those threats.
However, as we saw last night, that is the path that President Obama would like to pursue. With bin Laden’s death serving as a notch of victory on his belt and with troops coming home from Afghanistan in accordance with an artificial timeline, the president is primed to make his pitch to the American people that this is a job well done. But there are more innings to be played in this Long War against terrorism, and other threats remain in every corner of the world.
That’s why this month The Heritage Foundation is hosting its fourth annual “Protect America Month” in which leading conservatives and defense experts will deliver speeches and author a series of papers showcasing the need for America to commit to defending itself. In the first in a series of Protect America Month “America At Risk” memos, Matthew Spalding, PhD, Vice President of American Studies at The Heritage Foundation, writes that the federal government and its elected officials have an existential obligation to ensure that America is defended:
It is the constitutional duty of the federal government to secure the country’s international borders and preserve and protect its territorial integrity, to strengthen and preserve its constitutional government, and to promote the long-term prosperity and well-being of its people. This means that the United States must be able, willing, and prepared at all times to defend itself, its people, and its institutions from conventional and unconventional threats to its vital interests, both at home and abroad.
Unfortunately, under this Administration, the military is facing significant cuts that severely undermine America’s ability to defend itself and stand ready to combat the threats that lie around the corner.
Those threats could very well emerge from Afghanistan if the Taliban are allowed to return to power, creating a breeding ground for al-Qaeda. In his speech last night, President Obama announced the signing of a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan, making clear that the United States will retain a force presence in the country long after 2014. That is a sliver of good news, but Heritage’s Lisa Curtis explains, “that does not erase the mistakes the Obama Administration has made in setting arbitrary timelines for withdrawal of combat forces and failing to explain the stakes for the U.S. in Afghanistan to the American people for so long.”
The threat in Afghanistan remains, and the mission to protect America must continue. The president spoke last night of pursuing talks with the Taliban, yet hours later Taliban forces attacked a private compound with a car bomb, followed by gun fire, killing seven people and injuring 17 others. Clearly, the prospects for a political settlement with the Taliban remain remote.
The United States must recognize that it cannot wish away threats or retreat into retreat into its fortress. There are no castle walls high enough to prevent another 9/11, and turning away from enemies abroad will not make them go away. The U.S. military must be prepared to combat future threats, America’s law enforcement and intelligence communities must have the tools to prevent terrorist attacks at home, and our elected officials must recognize their constitutional obligation to protect America from its enemies, both foreign and domestic.
If you agree that cutting America’s defenses is no way to balance the budget, sign this petition from Heritage Action for America.