The Washington Post published an op-ed on Monday discussing the idea of launching a war-on-terror style campaign against domestic right-wing extremists and listing reasons why such a move may do more harm than good.
The essay, penned by journalist Khaled Diab, begins by quoting the reaction of Robert Grenier, a former CIA officer who once served as director of counterterrorism, to the early January Capitol riot.
Grenier positively presented the war on terror as a template for action against domestic targets. He wrote in the New York Times:
We may be witnessing the dawn of a sustained wave of violent insurgency within our own country, perpetrated by our own countrymen. Three weeks ago, it would have been unthinkable that the United States might be a candidate for a comprehensive counterinsurgency program. But that is where we are.
Grenier also told NPR that “Just as I saw in the Middle East that the air went out of violent demonstrations when [Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein . . . seemed to be defeated, I think the same situation applies here.”
Diab then calls out the U.S. for “destructively” chasing the “phantom” of violent Islamism globally, while — until recently — ignoring the “greater threat” of “homegrown White and Christian extremism.” He writes:
After two decades of the United States futilely and destructively chasing the phantom of violent Islamism across the globe, it is welcome to see Americans finally waking up to the greater threat to their security and well-being posed by homegrown White and Christian extremism — which I, like others, have been warning about for many years.
However, Diab finds the notion of deploying “catastrophic” overseas practices domestically to be an error:
But the idea that the practices the United States has pursued in the Middle East for 20 years should now be deployed domestically fills me with a chilling sense of unease and trepidation. The United States could be on the brink of committing similar catastrophic errors at home as it did abroad.
Diab presents several reasons for his opposition to the use of counterinsurgency tactics, the first being that a domestic war-on-terror would be extremely expensive and inevitably lead to more violence and human rights abuses.
“U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq cost trillions of dollars, which could have been far more productively invested in nation-building at home, and it cost those countries untold thousands of civilian lives, unleashed endless conflict, and accelerated or deepened state collapse,” he wrote.
“It also led to broad human rights abuses — epitomized by the Guantánamo Bay detention camp — and the massive growth of the surveillance state.”
Diab also suggests that the use of militarized tactics at home could likely be counterproductive.
“[T]he U.S. invasion and subsequent counterinsurgency operations in Iraq fueled the rise of violent jihadism in a country that had previously not known it,” he wrote.
“If the United States were to use similarly militarized tactics at home, even if toned down compared with the heavy firepower mobilized abroad, it could turn an already bad situation into an outright catastrophe.”
Though admitting that the U.S. is not currently in the midst of an actual insurgency, Diab believes that could easily change in an instant.
“America is sitting on a ticking bomb: perceived conservative grievances, a white supremacist movement with a serious inferiority and persecution complex, and right-wing gun owners with enough firepower to invade a medium-size country, including increasingly radical gun groups and militias,” he writes.
“A sudden lurch from ignoring or underplaying the threat of right-wing extremism to treating White crusaders like Islamist militants and QAnon like al-Qaeda will set off the time bomb rather than defuse it.”
Diab then expresses his fears that a counterinsurgency campaign against “right-wing extremists” would ultimately result in emboldening them and producing martyrs.
“Launching a counterinsurgency campaign in the war-on-terror mold against right-wing extremists will not defeat the tiny and disparate bands of armed groups across the country,” he writes.
“Instead, if the U.S. experience in the rest of the world is any guide, it will transform these zeros into heroes. It will embolden them and strengthen their resolve. And it will enable them to excel in their favorite role, that of persecuted martyr.”
Diab also voices concern that many Republicans would be further “radicalized” as a result.
“For each small group or militia the counterinsurgency defeats, a larger, stronger and more determined replacement will rise up to take its place,” he writes.
“This could further radicalize the large numbers of Republicans who express sympathy with the ‘patriots’ who stormed the Capitol, transforming them from passive supporters of authoritarianism into active aiders and abettors of violent extremism.”
Instead, Diab suggests viewing “violent extremism and fascism” from the right as far more than an isolated issue.
“…seeing the situation through the narrow security prism of insurgency, it is far more useful to look at the rising tide of violent extremism and fascism not as an isolated problem but a symptom of the deeper malaise of deepening state failure,” he writes.
The essay comes as some Democrats continue to target conservatives and “right-wing extremists,” despite having repeated calls for “healing” and “unity.”
Last week, several “national security experts” attacked the Republican Party, claiming it behaves “like a terror group,” is rife with “terrorist sympathizers,” and should be viewed as “enemy combatants.”
One “expert” went so far as to suggest that if those who took part in the early January riot at Capitol Hill “were in Afghanistan” they would have been hit. “We would’ve hit them,” he said. “Either a raid, drop a bomb on them, whatever it is.”
In a recent video created by left-wing novelist Don Winslow, citizens are called upon to become cyber detectives to monitor and report fellow citizen Trump supporters to authorities while comparing the work of this “army of citizens” to that which led to the capture of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
The clip, which has received over four million views, claims the greatest threat facing America today emanates from “radical extreme conservatives, also known as domestic terrorists” hidden among us.
A video clip released last month by the left-wing MeidasTouch PAC brands Republican Party members as “traitors” unworthy of being called conservatives while describing the GOP as “no different” from the ISIS terror group.
In one tweet, the video was introduced with a message referring to the Republican Party as the “GOP terrorist party.”
Also last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) dubbed members of Congress who seek to protect themselves with firearms the “enemy.”
“We will probably need a supplemental for more security for members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives, in addition to what is happening outside,” she said.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.