Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Terrorism Expert: “Domestic extremists have a sympathetic base.”

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, January 31, 2021

Two of Mr. Jenkins’ latest articles are:

Why We Need a January 6 Commission to Investigate the Attack on the Capitol
January 20, 2021


The Battle of Capitol Hill
January 11, 2021

His most recent social media commentary is:

“The mob assault on the U.S. Capitol was predictable. Fortunately, democracy held. But security failed spectacularly.

“In short, the failure of planning is incomprehensible. We’re lucky this wasn’t a massacre. The intruders could’ve taken elected officials hostage; it was only in October that the FBI thwarted a plot by right-wing extremists to kidnap the governor of Michigan.

“January 6th is now a day to be remembered on the calendar of violent resistance to the federal government. Emerging from the deadly debacle are diehards whose fantasies of a stolen election are still being fueled.

“These extremists could now be emboldened by their successful confrontation last week. A continuing deep sense of injury coupled with an unrealistic assessment of their own power is always a bad combination.

“Defiance is not easily put back in the box. The siege may cause some previously inflammatory politicians to sober up. But to the rioters, any weak denunciations by such politicians may only feed their sense of betrayal and harden their resolve.

“Extremist activity during the inauguration or the SOTU address is possible in the near term. But I worry more about terrorist plots by right-wing extremists over the horizon.”

Domestic Violent Extremists Will Be Harder To Combat Than Homegrown Jihadists

Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Adviser to the RAND President, Michael D. Rich.

By Brian Michael Jenkins
01/31/21 05:00 PM EST

Brian Michael Jenkins is a Senior Adviser to the President of the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. He is a former Captain in the Green Berets, initiated RAND’s Terrorism Research program in 1972 and has been researching terrorism for RAND since. He is a Fulbright Fellow, University of San Carlos in Guatemala, has served in several administrations in various capacities related to security and terrorism, authored numerous books, articles, and reports published worldwide, and is a Vietnam Veteran.

The Biden administration has said it will take steps to combat domestic violent extremism. While the move comes close on the heels of the January 6 attack on the Capitol Building, the nation has witnessed recent acts of violence stemming from both far left and far right extremists.

The announced actions – conducting a comprehensive threat assessment, coordinating intelligence sharing, disrupting networks, trying to prevent radicalization – might have a familiar ring. They’re similar to the post-9/11 response to thwart terrorist attacks launched from abroad, and later, homegrown jihadists, which have been largely successful. While these are solid steps, for a variety of reasons shutting down domestic extremists will prove far more difficult than combating homegrown jihadists.

Larger constituencies.
Jihadist ideology, with few exceptions, gained very little traction in America’s Muslim communities. In contrast, the beliefs driving today’s domestic extremists are deeply rooted in American history and society. Precisely for that reason, some law enforcement officials argue against coming down too hard on those involved in the 1/6 assault, perhaps fearing that doing so might provoke the kind of bloody confrontations witnessed in the early 1990s.

The jihadists never had a supportive constituency in the U.S. They responded as individuals to exhortations from groups abroad. Indeed, many of the tips that led to arrests reportedly came from within the Muslim community. There were no continuing terrorist campaigns. Plots and attacks were one-offs. But domestic extremists have a sympathetic base.

Domestic extremists are better organized.
Hindered by FBI infiltration, far right extremists long ago adopted a strategy of “leaderless resistance,” avoiding a hierarchical structure and instead relying on local autonomous cells to carry out attacks on behalf of the cause. What is new about today’s domestic extremists is their mobility — moving across the country to participate in action. This creates contacts and coalescence. It requires coordination and logistics. Social media has added a new and dangerous dynamic. Organizationally, these groups may be maturing.

 The nation has not been galvanized.
The unprecedented 9/11 terrorist attacks bound the country together in a fervent national effort to prevent further attacks. But domestic extremist attacks thus far have not unified the nation. The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing – the second worst terrorist attack in the United States – did not generate a similar response nor has the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol Building. Indeed, political differences appear to have become more intense and will hamper federal efforts to counter violent domestic extremism. Any attempt to legislate new counterterrorism statutes or expand the list of terrorist groups – already an arbitrary designation – will prompt fierce arguments about the definition of terrorism and who is a terrorist.

Rightwing extremists are far better armed.
They are part of an American gun culture. Their acquisition and display of personal arsenals reflect their defiance of any effort to limit what they see as their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The jihadists never had this, although they also could get guns and carry out deadly attacks. Gunning down unarmed civilians requires fanaticism, not advanced training, but to move beyond a lone shooter will require operational skills.

Many rightwing extremists have military or police training.
A few American jihadists had served in the military, more sought to join the army, but for the most part they were untrained. There are concerns that extremists have recruited veterans, and that extremist ideologies have penetrated the armed services and police departments. It’s unclear how pervasive the problem is, but it could undermine trust and cooperation between federal authorities and local police departments.

Preventing radicalization may not work.
The idea of intervening before a crime is committed was promoted by the Obama administration as an alternative to a purely law enforcement approach — preventing radicalization instead of incarceration. These efforts provoked resentment in Muslim communities and it is not clear how effective they were. The idea of the federal government patrolling ideology to identify dangerous beliefs will provoke outrage and raise civil liberties concerns on both the left and the right.

The environment for intelligence collection will be less permissive.
Domestic intelligence collection in a democracy is always a delicate undertaking. Material support statutes and the fact that the public and courts viewed jihadists as part of a foreign threat (even though a majority were U.S.-born citizens) gave authorities unprecedented latitude in their investigations. Containing jihadist terrorism was an intelligence success, although many aspects of the Patriot Act remain controversial. Law enforcement will have less latitude in monitoring domestic extremists.

Prosecutions will be more difficult.
Jihadist defendants were brought before judges and juries, but that did not prevent bias. The fact that many of them were named Mohammed may have made it harder for them to get a fair hearing in court. Many pleaded guilty to avoid even longer sentences. Things will be different in dealing with domestic extremists who may be able to count on at least one sympathetic juror.

Co-option strategies may not work this time.
Historically, the American political system has been adept at co-opting issues and addressing these grievances thereby separating violent extremists from potential constituencies. Government, of course, should deal with the conditions underlying the hostility on display. But government cannot, under threat, compromise with those whose views are antithetical to unalienable rights and American values.

We must be realistic in our expectations. It took more than a decade to shut down the terrorist groups of the 1970s and decades to break up the Ku Klux Klan. The threat posed by homegrown jihadists is still ongoing after 20 years. The domestic extremists now threatening the peace are the latest incarnation of beliefs and quarrels reaching back to the 19th century. They may be contained, but never entirely rooted out.


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