More Biden Recklessness: Bombing Houthi Jihadists While Keeping Our Borders Wide Open
The Houthi Supreme Political Council has declared that “all American-British interests have become legitimate targets.
Most of America’s allies are AWOL yet again when it comes to countering Houthi efforts to shut down the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden international water routes. Even American neocons must have thought this was a perfect burden-sharing moment—if not now, against renegade Houthi rebels threatening globally used sea lanes, then when?
Only Britain has joined the U.S. naval task, “Operation Prosperity Guardian,” because France, Spain, and other NATO partners have no stomach for risking their sailors and expensive vessels to counter make-shift Houthi rockets and attack drones. Of course, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and UAE are also on the sidelines, again, because the Houthis are actually formidable foes. Much easier to let Uncle Sam do it.
Secretary of State Blinken says “freedom of navigation” and “freedom of shipping” are at stake. True or not, Washington is undertaking this faraway military action totally oblivious to America’s gaping vulnerabilities at home. President Biden’s decision to bomb Houthis, while his administration doubles down on unprecedented open-border policies, is exposing the U.S. homeland to more unnecessary risks.
Washington is poking yet another hornet’s nest with no screens on its windows. Biden officials appear to have learned nothing from the 9/11 national calamity, which sprang directly from mismanaged homeland border security, totally detached from an intrusive U.S. foreign posture in the Middle East.
Typically, more than two decades after 9/11, the Washington national-security establishment is again focused on our overseas posture rather than the homeland. That is why, mindful of deadly groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, the Pentagon has put U.S. troops in the Middle East on code red. The State Department has warned traveling Americans to avoid the entire region and ordered its diplomatic missions on high alert.
Back at the Department of Homeland Security, officials busily continue implementing Secretary Mayorkas’s signature policy: admitting foreign migrants into the country quickly with little to no vetting. There was a time, even under the Obama administration, when DHS put out threat-level alerts inside the United States in response to world events. While the department surely overused that blunt color-coded warning system, at least DHS from that era gave attention to homeland security.
Today, this warning responsibility falls to the DHS National Terrorism Advisory System, which currently has no advisories for the American public, even after U.S. officials have encountered some 185 watchlisted terrorist suspects so far in the waves of illegal migrants.
Many observers dismiss out of hand the idea that the faraway Houthis can threaten the U.S. homeland. It is true that the Houthis have not, so far, engaged in rampant al Qaeda-like terrorism, and their capacity to project military power might appear limited to firing missiles and flying drones. Yet part of the Houthi strategy in interdicting vessels in the Red Sea appears to be to draw the United States back into a shooting Middle East war.
In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Americans ultimately rejected Washington’s endless nation-building missions on the other side of the globe. But 9/11 also showed that if a determined and resourceful foreign enemy really seeks to enrage the American public and provide Washington the perfect justification, or pretext, for another military incursion abroad, a well-planned domestic terrorist strike on the U.S. homeland is a good plan. It certainly functions much better than firing rockets at merchant ships in the Red Sea.
At its peril, Washington dismisses resourceful and fanatical enemies who seek to do us harm, and experts have shortsightedly underestimated Houthi capacities for decades. One conservative commentator, capturing the prevailing attitude, brushed the Houthis off as nothing more than “goat herders with pipes,” out of which they can only launch crude rockets.
Like Hezbollah, the Shia Houthis are in Iran’s orbit, bitter enemies of Israel and any of its supporters. Their national slogan, adopted after the U.S. invaded Iraq, is far from catchy, but it makes their fanatical point: “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam.” It does not help that Washington, in support of a Saudi Arabia-led coalition, meddled for years in the never-ending Yemeni civil war, far removed from any real American national interest.
The Houthis and their tribal allies, maybe 30 percent of all Yemenis, prevailed as the de facto winner of the civil conflict because they displayed tough North Vietnamese–like staying power; they were brutal fighters, motivated by their Islamic fanaticism, with more determination than all of their enemies combined.
The lesson Washington policymakers should draw is that the Houthis, now a quasi-state with the resources of Yemen, should be considered serious enough adversaries. Houthi ambition is to carry their troublemaking beyond the Red Sea region, for example, even to the Great Satan’s open southern border. At a minimum, the rudimentary Houthi intelligence service can certainly recruit its own proxies.
Under Biden, even grandmothers from India can stumble their way across the Rio Grande, and the U.S. is certainly not prepared to interdict Houthi operatives. Imagine the likely back and forth at a Biden administration National Security Council meeting:
NSC Advisor Sullivan: In light of Houthi threats to hit us back, I’m concerned about our vulnerabilities at home. Can DHS tell us approximately how many Houthis are in the country? Alejandro, what do we know?
DHS Secretary Mayorkas: Houthis? Well, Jake, the truth is DHS doesn’t even know how many Yemenis are in the U.S., much less Houthis. We simply do not have that kind of information. Look, my priority has been to protect the Yemenis in America from being forced to leave and return to that never-ending civil war. That is exactly why President Biden undid Trump’s outrageous seven-country travel ban that included Yemen. That is why I put Yemenis on Temporary Protected Status and extended that protection until September 2024. We have our priorities in order.
Secretary of State Blinken: May I jump in? Ali is exactly right. The president has said many times America must offer sanctuary to vulnerable people. That defines us as a country. But I can see both sides of this and also agree with Jake. We should be concerned about the Houthi Supreme Council’s threat. We need the FBI to update about Houthi capabilities to carry out a terrorist attack inside the U.S.
FBI Director Wray: Well, first of all, let me remind you, Tony, it was the State Department’s decision to remove Yemen from the list of state sponsors of terrorism—before you just changed your mind. (Typical State Department.) As far as Houthi threats here at home, the FBI, of course, is closely monitoring the Yemeni community in places like Detroit, but what we know about those folks is limited.
The FBI does know that Yemenis in this country are vigorously condemning Israel and its attacks on Gaza. In figuring out who among the Yemeni are Houthi extremists, our agents rely on informants, who are often sketchy and just in it for the money. Remember, al Qaeda taught us that once terrorist fanatics get inside this country, they are very hard to detect...
This imaginary NSC conversation is not a far-fetched fiction; it draws only on what we already know about the Biden administration’s policies. These officials thoroughly reject the concept that border security is in fact the first building block in national security.
A basic operational principle in protecting the border is controlling and vetting each foreigner who enters, and turning back those who have no permission to come into our country. DHS is failing in that mission, and the abovementioned 185 suspects encountered as border jumpers were happenstance discovers whose identities were matched in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDS).
Managed by the FBI, that database contains some one million “known or suspected” terrorist identities, called “KSTs” in the business. Basic U.S. anti-terrorist travel procedure is about matching a KST identity to a watchlist, but that is only a first step; serious screening involves observing, interviewing, and assessing travelers and their colleagues during visa applications and at ports of entry. Biden’s border chaos, which is currently admitting hundreds of thousands of migrants each month, overwhelms normal vetting procedures, even if some identities can still be checked against the TSDS.
Today’s terrorism planners know perfectly well they can beat mechanical watchlisting by recruiting low-profile operatives, completely unknown to U.S. authorities or our allies. Despite ongoing U.S. efforts to enhance TSDS by the NSA hoovering up of personal information and similar methods, it is still not that difficult today for our enemies to find virgin recruits and keep their identities offline.
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A related national security vulnerability is America’s demographics, which are fundamentally changing through immigration. In 2000, before 9/11, the U.S. Muslim population was well under two million; al Qaeda plotters did not consider the small communities of indigenous American Muslims as promising ground for new recruits.
Today, we are approaching 4 million Muslims in the United States; the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) claims, a likely exaggeration, there are some 7 million Muslims in the country. Whatever the exact number, it is definitely growing. The aggressive pro-Hamas demonstrations that are rattling the country, and the White House, certainly represent much more than woke Ivy League university students.
A prominent economist once cautioned that massive immigration was incompatible with the U.S. generous welfare system. To that warning can be added that massive Muslim immigration is incompatible with long-standing U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.