December 5, 2023

Last week’s essay by George Parry, “Joe Biden and the Coming Domestic Martyrdom Operations,” belongs at the top of every American Spectator reading list. It’s powerful, utterly convincing, and terrifying in its depiction of the potential for mass casualty terrorism events in the United States in the months to come. And he correctly identifies our open border as the most significant contributor to the problem we face.

I spent 35 years working to protect critical national security infrastructure against a variety of terrorist threats and immersed myself in the ways and means of terrorist threats to the U.S. During those years, there was lively debate among terrorism experts about the extent to which foreign actors could successfully infiltrate terrorist teams into the homeland. The events of 9/11 temporarily ended this debate; those who’d previously argued that our borders were secure had no answer for how a team of 19 foreign terrorists could enter the U.S. and accomplish such an attack.

In the aftermath of 9/11, important positive steps were taken to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. These included a more focused and coordinated intelligence effort to detect threats, a greater law enforcement focus on disrupting them, and significant security enhancements to protect our most vital targets. Furthermore, our war on terrorism overseas, however much it is now derided by both Left and Right, saw two important accomplishments: First, it destroyed many of the sanctuaries on which transnational terrorist groups relied; second, it sent a message to the world that we were deadly serious about crushing these groups.

Now, as Parry demonstrates, all those efforts are largely for naught. Under the current administration, our border security has become laughable. Don’t be misled by public pronouncements to the effect that “no credible threat” has been identified; that’s intel community jargon for: “We have no idea what might be going on.” If we don’t know how many people have crossed the border, and our overwhelmed agents are forced to “catch and release,” then meaningful screening, the kind we tried to implement after 9/11, simply ceases to exist. Hezbollah, Hamas, a resurgent ISIS — all likely have taken advantage of our open borders.

Moreover, they’ve decided they have little to fear by way of retaliation. Just recently, the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, directly threatened the U.S., saying, “To the Americans, I say to you, remember your defeats in Lebanon, Iraq, in Afghanistan and remember how you humiliatingly withdrew from Afghanistan,” adding further, “Your Navy ships in the Mediterranean don’t scare us and they never did.” Why aren’t they scared? These are powerful nuclear attack carrier task forces, capable of wreaking massive on Hezbollah or Hamas — or, come to that, Iran itself. Their contempt, then, is less for these assets than for the political leadership that has sent them into the Eastern Mediterranean with no very clear idea of how they might be used and a complete lack of political will to use them. We’ve sent a clear signal that we’re no longer in the business of crushing terrorist groups or their sponsors, no matter how great a threat they pose.

The problem, however, is not simply open borders. In recent days, we’ve seen a virtual tidal wave of anti-Semitic hatred in our major cities and on our college campuses. Some of this hatred has already translated into direct threats of armed violence, and more should be expected. Furthermore, as I noted in my most recent American Spectator article, while Israel is the “Little Satan,” we, that is, Americans of every background, are regarded as the “Great Satan.” It’s not just the Jews; all of us are hated and, worst of all, hated by our own homegrown radicals. It’s vastly ironic that the proliferation of “hate has no home” signs has coincided with a level of hatred directed at all of us who fail to bow down before the “progressive” cultists. For years now, the Left has stirred a cauldron of hate for its fellow Americans. From “deplorable” to “target of violence” is but a short step. (READ THE PIECE: The Lie Behind the ‘Hearts and Minds’ Plea)

When I worked in Germany in the late 1970s, the Baader–Meinhof group was at its peak. The active members of the group were few in number, and Germany lacked anything resembling the remote cave complexes of Tora Bora. But what Germany did have was a vast number of “soft” left-wing radicals, the Sympathisanten, to use the term of those years. Some of these, though unwilling to pull a trigger or plant a bomb, were nonetheless willing to hide terrorists from authorities. Many more were simply unwilling to assist the police in any way, making a mockery of that era’s version of “see something, say something.” I suspect the new wave of terrorism Parry anticipates will find its own network of sympathizers among the “useful idiots” who hate their neighbors.

China Is a Danger Too

There was one element conspicuously missing from Parry’s otherwise excellent analysis: Nowhere does he mention China, or the possibility of Chinese state-sponsored terrorism as an adjunct to a shooting war over Taiwan. I’ve argued that this is a very real possibility, likely, if Chairman Xi is to be believed, to occur no later than 2027. We already face some very real challenges just mounting a credible conventional warfare deterrent to China’s burgeoning air, naval, and information warfare capabilities. If China accompanies an assault on Taiwan with hybrid attacks aimed at destabilizing the U.S. homeland, are we prepared to defend ourselves? (READ MORE from James H. McGee: Time for an Asian NATO?)

Following Parry’s analysis of other terrorist threats, I fear the answer is a resounding no. First, the same open border that serves Hezbollah and Hamas also serves the insertion of Chinese special operations teams. Earlier this year, Mark Green, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, indicated it was “very likely” that military personnel from China were being inserted across our southern border. Couple that with sleeper elements and already well-established influence operations such as the Confucius Institutes. Foundations have been laid for precisely the same kind of terroristic destabilization operations Parry lays out for the Middle Eastern terrorist groups — only these would likely be much worse because the full resources of China’s Ministry of State Security and the intelligence organs of the People’s Liberation Army would be deployed in their support.

Instead of random attacks by individuals and small groups, we would be looking at multiple, simultaneous, and well-orchestrated actions across the full “hybrid warfare” spectrum, from economic pressure to cyber attacks to kinetic violence exerted by the Chinese version of Putin’s “little green men.” In this context, one should also note that such “little green men” don’t have to actually be Chinese nationals, or even Asian in appearance. China’s intelligence services also have ties with their Russian counterparts, connections throughout Africa and Latin America, and even contacts in the Middle East, all of which could be leveraged — indeed, likely have already been leveraged — to place hard-to-identify assets inside the U.S.

The Chinese are already heavily involved with the Mexican drug cartels, serving as a primary source for the fentanyl that now floods our streets. Indeed, one might regard our current fentanyl epidemic as a form of Chinese hybrid warfare. After all, current estimates indicate that the majority of illegal fentanyl smuggled into the U.S. originates in China, and total opioid overdose deaths account for more in a single year than the U.S. suffered throughout the Vietnam War. And consider the whole sad tale of the COVID pandemic. One doesn’t have to argue that this was, in fact, a deliberate exercise in biological warfare to understand that it serves as a perfect illustration of what a biological attack might look like and how profoundly destabilizing it would prove to be. If the damage wrought by COVID and by fentanyl is merely incidental, imagine what might follow from a purposeful strategy.

Which brings us, by way of conclusion, back to George Parry’s essay, and the question he raises about our own preparedness. Noting how federal law enforcement and counterintelligence has been prostituted to serve such ends as surveilling “pro-life advocates, parents who protest at school board meetings, [and] traditional Latin Mass Catholics,” he asks if we can now count on both to take on the “far more difficult task of investigating actual hard-core, violent, and foreign-trained terrorists.” To which I would add, are they even remotely capable of taking on highly sophisticated, Chinese state–sponsored terrorists? With Parry, I can only observe, “We are about to find out.”

James H. McGee’s 2022 novel, Letter of Reprisal, tells the tale of a desperate mission to destroy a Chinese bioweapon facility hidden in the heart of the central African conflict region. Not incidentally, it is also a meditation on the nature of heroism as exemplified by an international team of special operators. You can find it on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions, and on Kindle Unlimited.