The title of the hearing held today by the House Armed Services Committee was “The Evolving Threat of Terrorism and Effective Counterterrorism Strategies”.
An evolving threat of terrorism, perceptive readers will not, is not the same thing as an evolving practice of terrorism. A threat of terrorism is nothing more than a threat.
What’s actually happening is quite different.
What’s actually happening is that there hasn’t been a single terrorist attack in the United States this year.
So, when Professor Bruce Hoffman of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University appeared before the committee today, he didn’t have anything to report about new terrorist attacks. There have been none. All Hoffman could talk about in his testimonies were “potentialities”. In other words, Hoffman told the committee that, although terrorists aren’t attacking the United States right now, maybe they will some time in the future.
When Brian Michael Jenkins of the RAND Corporation testified before the committee, he could only talk about a “continuing terrorist threat”, meaning that it continues to be possible that sometime in the future, terrorists could attack, even though they aren’t now. “We should not overestimate the terrorist threat to the United States,” Jenkins informed the committee, explaining that, increased reports of terrorism outside the United States are the result of increased efforts to detect terrorism, not an indication that terrorism itself is increasing. “Given its current levels in the United States, terrorism cannot be considered an existential threat,” Jenkins advised.
Like the other witnesses at the hearing, Michael A. Sheehan of West Point could only identify a “threat”, rather than any actual terrorism taking place in the United States. “Things have improved lately – and we need not panic – nor expend the lives of our troops or our national treasure needlessly,” Sheehan told the committee. Sheehan confirmed that terrorists “have not had a strategic impact on our country.”
There you have it: The three people selected to testify by the most hawkish committee in the hawkish Republican-controlled Congress testified that terrorism in the United States really isn’t the big deal that people think it is. Yet, Donald Trump continues to call terrorism a “tremendous problem” for the United States.
Trump announced when he met with the Prime Minister of Canada, “We have some, I think, very strong, very tough ideas on the tremendous problem that we have with terrorism. And I think when we put them all together, which will be very, very quickly – we have a group of very talented people – we will see some very, very obvious results.”
The facts clearly point in the opposite direction of Donald Trump’s claims. Right now, the only thing we can honestly say about terrorism in the United States is that it is very, very absent.