William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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OH YES, THERE'S THAT – AT 9:55 A.M. ET:  It is stunning to see how little urgency there is about the recent assertiveness of Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups.  It's as if we don't want to know because it may inconvenience Barack (come to save us) in his second term.  We are reminded of some of the attitudes of the 1930s, which held that the rising Nazis were no threat, and, after all, had made some good points.

The Wall Street Journal notes that our enemies may not play the game by our playbook:

Mr. Obama of late has been doing what can only be described as a mission-accomplished riff on Iraq and Afghanistan, announcing last week an accelerated timetable for getting U.S. troops out of the Afghan theater. From his election campaign through the transition, Mr. Obama has tried to keep the world and its troubles at arm's length. But with the hostage mess at a remote gas plant in Algeria, it is impossible to blink from the reality that the post-bin Laden al Qaeda is still with us and an active threat to U.S. interests.

When the French sent troops and planes to Mali last week to resist a seizure of that nation by al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), the U.S. support it expected didn't come. Among the sotto voce reasons offered for the turndown was that no immediate U.S. interests are at stake in Mali. It's a point often pressed of late by the neo-realpolitik school of American foreign policy. Absent obvious U.S. interest, the world is on its own.

The geopolitical strategists at al Qaeda promptly upped the ante of national interest. In what's described as a well-planned offensive, they grabbed nationals from 10 countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Austria, Japan and Malaysia. With the Algerian government tightly controlling information, news of the hostages and their fate has been uncertain.

An official with the Obama Administration said the U.S. government urged Algeria to be "cautious" and mindful of the hostages' safety. Who could disagree? But let us also posit that the Administration's attitude toward these recent events looks increasingly unworldly.

In September, terrorists murdered U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, and it's now clear that the U.S. policy of a "light footprint" in Libya underestimated that threat. Earlier last year, al Qaeda seized the northern half of Mali. Now the Algerian raid shows how committed terrorists can squeeze the tails of the world's big dogs.

As the Algerian standoff continued Friday, a Mauritanian news agency reported that the alleged mastermind of the raid has proposed trading two American hostages for two militants in the U.S. The report couldn't be confirmed, but one of the militants is Omar Abdel Rahman, better known as the "blind sheik," who is serving a life sentence in federal prison for planning the first attack on the World Trade Center, in 1993.

COMMENT:  Very well said.  One of my worries about America is that we are becoming an increasingly adolescent society, led by increasingly childish "educators" and journalists.  We face grave challenges from foreign opponents, who ultimately will get weapons of mass destruction.   Yet, you'd never know it from the rhetoric of those in power.  Obama, Kerry, and especially Hagel, have a history of minimizing foreign threats.  (Kerry once reported, after a trip to Moscow, that he knew the Soviets weren't any serious threat to us because half the lights at the airport were off.  We note that he was never taken to inspect the Soviet nuclear missile submarines.) 

Al Qaeda, far from being suppressed, is increasingly active.  And what happens when they seize a group of American tourists and demand the release of the blink Sheik, whose name will forever be linked to the World Trade Center?  If Obama releases him, we will be thoroughly humiliated as a nation.  The sad fact is, though, that plenty of people in our "intellectual" classes will be pleased.

January 21, 2013