Adopting “counterinsurgency” tactics for use against wide swaths of Americans can only make the situation worse.
Members of the political class are buying into burgeoning fantasies about a second civil war, indulging visions about sparring with parts of their own subject populations. In the wake of recent conflicts culminating in the Capitol riot, prominent figures have been extrapolating from our violent polarization to a dystopian future of insurgency within our borders. Officialdom seems dead set on fanning the sparks of existing political strife into something resembling a national house fire.
“The challenge facing us now is one of counterinsurgency,” Robert Grenier, former CIA station chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan and later director of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, insists in The New York Times. “Though one may recoil at the thought, it provides the most useful template for action.”
The danger, Grenier adds, lies in “a large, religiously conservative segment of the population, disproportionately (though not entirely) rural and culturally marginalized.” He doesn’t believe that the entire segment is violent, but it constitutes “a mass of citizens—sullen, angry and nursing their grudges—among whom the truly violent minority will be able to live undetectably, attracting new adherents to their cause.”
In a subsequent NPR interview he elaborated, “I think what is most important is that we drive a wedge between those violent individuals and the people who may otherwise see them as reflecting their interests and fighting on their behalf.”
Days earlier, former CIA director John Brennan had similarly claimed that the Biden administration is focusing on “what looks very similar to insurgency movements that we’ve seen overseas,” consisting of “an unholy alliance” of “religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, Nativists, even libertarians.”
Brennan added that officialdom is “doing everything possible to root out what seems to be a very, very serious and insidious threat to our democracy and our republic.”
While neither Grenier nor Brennan are currently in government, both are well-connected and influential. Tellingly, the same day that Grenier’s Times screed appeared, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a terrorism bulletin that read like a sales brochure for the former CIA officials’ desired domestic policies.
“The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security has issued a National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin due to a heightened threat environment across the United States, which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the successful Presidential Inauguration,” warned the bulletin. “Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.”