In the early years after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, analysts warned that the war on terror would be like a hydra, that mythological beast that grew two new heads for every one that was cut down.
This analogy looked at two key factors: First, more Islamist extremists could and would be radicalized with every successful attack, making the war on Islamist terrorism unsuccessful unless it was supported by a similar ideological war.
Yet, the ideological war never came. In fact, nearly two decades after 9/11, the United States is still struggling with making Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programming effective.
Second, analysts predicted that there would be no putting the genie back in the bottle once the world had seen the devastation a band of cave-dwelling extremists could pull off.
9/11 and Osama bin Laden became a calling card, activating extremists and inspiring the next generation of anti-American radicals.
Moreover, what started off as a war on terror against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan has clearly failed. Nineteen years later, the Taliban still wields enormous power and destruction and the U.S. has acquiesced to meet them at the diplomatic table (while exploring exit options from what has been called the “Graveyard of Empires”).
It is true that ISIS has been significantly diminished (at least in Syria and Iraq), yet we’re far from where we thought we would be in defeating militant Islamism.
We are still heavily involved in fighting outright Islamist terrorists. At the same time, “softer” Islamists have shape-shifted and secured traction through intersectional alliances with other Marxist ideologies and victim groups.
In short, the hydra is proving to be skilled at camouflage and deception, and particularly clever at using Western values against itself.
Moreover, 19 years after 9/11, America is also facing fights against multiple hyrdas: Antifa anarchists and white supremacists, to name just two.
This month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is poised to announce “white supremacists as the ‘most persistent and lethal threat'” to the United States.
Reviewed by Politico, all three draft documents set to be launched by DHS could still change, but the message is clear:
- The threat posed by white supremacists is more significant than the immediate danger from foreign terrorists.
White supremacist violence has historically represented the most sustained form of terrorism in the United States. The document drafts spotlight white supremacist as mainly emanating from lone actors and small cells, some of which might be networking with outside influences.
This tactic is very similar to Islamist influencers who deploy “lone wolves” or small terror cells that can function in isolation or splinter off from a group.
The DHS draft also points to Russia, citing Russia will “probably will be the primary covert foreign influence actor and purveyor of disinformation and misinformation in the Homeland.”
The document drafts do not mention Antifa, as the violence currently being perpetrated by Antifa is still largely being categorized as criminal behavior.
That is because designating Antifa as a terror group is more complex than with violent white supremacist groups.
Clarion Project recently hosted a webinar (see below) on this complex topic featuring expert Andrew C. McCarthy.
McCarthy is a senior fellow at National Review Institute, and former assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he led the successful 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and 11 others for their involvement in the first World Trade Center bombing and other terror plots.
Watch the full webinar below: