In a video address discussing the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack, President Obama said this:
"We know that [Abdulmutallab] travelled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies. It appears that he joined an affiliate of al-Qaeda, and that this group, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America."
It is good to see the president finally come out and state the obvious, that this was an al Qaeda plot. The president has now publicly recognized that Abdulmutallab is not a "lone extremist" at all, as the president himself first claimed.
But note the first thing that the president mentioned when discussing Abdulmutallab, who Obama still labels a "suspect," and his ties to Yemen: poverty. What does Yemen's struggle against poverty have to do with the Christmas Day terrorist plot? Nothing.
Abdulmutallab's father is the former chairman of Nigeria's First Bank and a wealthy millionaire. Abdulmutallab himself lived in a multi-million dollar apartment near Oxford Street in London. Poverty did not compel Abdulmutallab because he was not poor. Those who directed him are likely not poor either, as they have access to some of the most wealthy donors on the planet -- petrodollar millionaires and billionaires living in Persian Gulf countries and who believe that funding the jihad is a worthy cause.
To be fair, some may say this was a throw away line. And Obama later explains that we are facing a "far-reaching network of violence and hatred." But viewers of the president's video are left to ask: What drives this network? What do its members believe? What truly compels them? President Obama doesn't say.
The president ends his video with a call for bipartisanship. Certainly, the president and his administration deserve bi-partisan support as they try to fix whatever parts of "the system" they can -- in the hope that another al Qaeda bomber does not slip through the cracks again. And, ultimately, no one is to blame for the terrorists' attack other than the terrorists themselves -- no matter what intelligence slip-ups were made along the way. Godspeed, then, is what we should hope for the president and his staff. But is it partisan to ask: Why are our enemies sending bombers our way in the first place? Should we not be worried about the ideology that infected Abdulmutallab's mind? Can we win this war if our leaders are unwilling to openly confront the real root causes of our enemies' assault on the West?
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.