Editorial: Focus on fight against homegrown terrorism

The Detroit News

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made foreign policy a focal point of his campaign. Though his proposals are often offensive and questionably constitutional, his persistence has focused the country on a much-needed conversation about enhancing our national defense.

More needs to be done to defeat threats at home and abroad, and the GOP’s policy proposals under House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” white papers are a good place to start.

First and foremost, the U.S. must beef up security within the our borders to keep Americans safe. That means getting better at stopping homegrown terrorism. Nothing underscores the importance of that more than the recent attack in Orlando.

Homegrown radicalization—Orlando terrorist Omar Mateen was a U.S. citizen, born in New York—is America’s newest and greatest threat. The Internet presents myriad ways for wannabe terrorists to find inspiration without ever leaving their living rooms.

“ISIS alone has been linked to more than 30 plots against the United States and has helped drive a sharp uptick in terror at home. Since 9/11, there have been around 150 homegrown jihadist plots in our country, with the majority occurring in just the past three years. Indeed, 2015 was the most active year on record for such terror cases and the deadliest since 2001. The vast majority involved aliens and naturalized citizens who were inspired, encouraged, or directed by groups like ISIS and al Qaeda,” the white papers report says.

It notes terrorists are moving “at the speed of broadband,” and law enforcement has been unable to keep up.

That’s true. That Mateen was originally on an FBI watch list, but later removed, shows there are major flaws in the intelligence gathering system which must be addressed either through removing red tape or rethinking our assessment strategies and ability to share information among agencies.

The GOP also rightly notes this is a war not just of bullets, but of ideas. The United States won’t win without working across all kinds of traditional and social media to counter radical, violent ideas. That’s not a call for Internet censorship, but rather for the government to work more closely with civic and religious groups in fighting terrorist propaganda.

More effective anti-terrorism techniques at home must also be buffered by a stronger commitment to defeating terrorists and their ideology in their own countries. The Obama administration has been too lax in attempting to destroy hotbeds of terrorist activity, including strongholds in Syria and Iran.

That doesn’t necessarily mean more boots on the ground, but if the situation calls for it, our military strategy must be that we are willing to do what it takes to defeat the metastasizing threat of ISIS.

And beyond the Middle East, the United States must regain its presence worldwide. The void left in our absence has allowed other world powers like Russia, and even North Korea, to gain power. We need to restore alliances with critical nations like Israel, and deepen relationships with emerging world powers like India.

All these elements require strong, secure budgets for the military and law enforcement agencies that might be required to respond to local terror incidents. That’s where Congress is key, and their commitment to national security must be robust as well.

Whatever the outcome of the November election, the U.S. can no longer take chances with its foreign policy decisions, and the GOP has put forward a solid place to start.