It may be time for investors to go bird-watching—and black swans, specifically, should be in their sights.
With the 13th anniversary of 9/11 coming up, reports that ISIS or al Qaeda are planning a terrorist attack on the southern U.S. border circulated rapidly on the Internet ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend.
Judicial Watch, a conservative group, cited “high-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources” as having picked up chatter about attack plans by Islamic terror networks operating in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez.
The citation of U.S. intelligence sources seemed credible in light of previous official statements by the likes of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey warning of the severity of the ISIS threat.
“They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded,” Hagel is quoted as saying. “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen. So we must prepare for everything.”
Dempsey, who at the same press conference warned that ISIS had to be defeated, later walked back his comments, apparently under pressure from the White House, downgrading ISIS to a mere “regional threat” that “is not plotting or planning attacks against either the U.S. or Europe.”
Let’s hope this more hopeful view prevails.
But it bears mentioning that ISIS itself has threatened the U.S., with malevolent tweets showing photos of the black flag of ISIS in front of the White House and the Old Republic Building of Chicago along with the warning: “We are in your state. We are in your cities. We are in your streets.”
Ultimately, what gives these charges their eerie chill is not just the savagery with which the Islamist terror group cut off the head of U.S. journalist James Foley but the fact confirmed by experts and seen in recent events that ISIS is a more powerful and resourceful organization than al Qaeda was 13 years ago.
The terror group captured one-third of the territory of Iraq in a single week, immediately putting the country’s ancient Christian community on notice they had to convert to Islam, flee the country or be put to death.
Enabling ISIS aggression are economic assets: the terror group sells the oil under its control; they loot banks, Christians and other minorities in territory they’ve taken over; they collect ransom to the tune of tens of millions of dollars for the return of captured Westerners; and they receive private donations from European and Middle Eastern sources and possibly from Qatar, which has close connections with ISIS and other extremist groups.
So ISIS has the will and very plausibly the means to strike at the U.S.—and this at a time of growing U.S. retrenchment, not just from the world, but even along our own southern border, where hundreds of thousands of migrants have been apprehended since October. While news reports have focused on the surge of unaccompanied minors, a leaked document from the Customs and Border Protection agency suggests some of those apprehended have come from terror nests like Syria and Somalia, not to mention countries plagued by the outbreak of the ebola.
ISIS’s rise to power coincided with the Obama Administration’s dithering over Syria and retreat from Iraq. But it was the president’s Republican predecessor George W. Bush who in December 2008 signed the status of forces agreement with Iraq, laying the way for all U.S. forces to leave the country by 2011.
So U.S. global retreat has bipartisan fingerprints, and looks to have staying power. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is currently posing as a security hawk, but the record of her four years as Secretary of State is not distinguished by any notable successes. Meanwhile, Republican favorite Rand Paul is vocal about the need for scaling down U.S. foreign policy engagement at a time of increasing danger.