Being Right: Connecting the Dots, Proactively



Andrew Spano

As I passed through Syracuse Hancock TSA last week, I found it rather nauseating that a fellow American had the audacity to put up a stink about taking off her shoes before walking through the security detector. It’s a small price to pay in a post-9/11 world.

Instead, what she should have been frustrated by – and indeed many in our nation’s national security apparatus are – is the lack of effective, proactive security strategy development. Too much of what we still do is reactionary.

The mandatory removal of shoes before being scanned is a reactionary policy. A few months after 9/11, the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid tried to set off a bomb in his shoes. We now must take off our shoes to be scanned. Fast forward to summer 2006 when a large group of British Muslims plotted to use liquid explosives on a number of transatlantic flights. We may no longer bring liquids on board. Moreover, our airport technology is outdated. We look for metal, yet new, homemade explosives are made of plastic.

Despite our luck in the aforementioned situations, we don’t seem to be learning any lessons.

“The system worked,” or so said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in the wake of the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing. Granted, Ms. Napolitano was referring to airline security and not national security as a whole, but the Homeland Secretary was wrong regardless. The system did not work, and a chastened Secretary Napolitano was forced to do an about face by declaring “systemic failure.” As a result, we will no doubt have more reactionary policies put in place.

While it is not human nature to put in place policies where there is not deemed a perceivable threat, perhaps it’s time we start listening to the military and national security futurists. Our world is changing rapidly, and asymmetric threats are growing faster than is our national security mechanism.

Forget hijacking planes. Terrorists will never try to use cardboard cutters and storm a cockpit on a flight within, entering or leaving the United States. American passengers will have none of it and will fight until the heroic end, before the terrorists can achieve big impact. A mere hour and 17 minutes after American Airlines flight 11 hit the World Trade Center, brave Americans on United Airlines flight 93 thwarted the attempts of the last four 9/11 hijackers.

How about putting in place smart policies for the pre-screening airport experience? I doubt Americans will go as far as to emulate the multi-level security model utilized at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, but it might be wise to devise some sort of a mix of advanced detection devices and increased interaction with soon-to-be passengers.

This is not to say that all of what we do is reactionary. For instance, we continue to be very proactive on the cyber security front. (Yet, a recent simulation by CNN, “We Were Warned, Cyber Shockwave,” showed that we still have a ways to go.) A proactive national security policy includes making the first moves with regard to the many threats that confront our nation such as global terrorism and the growing nuclear proliferation of Iran and North Korea.

So far, Mr. Obama appears to be concerned with all things domestic, apart from his summer Apology Tour. The war on terror has been turned into a circus, er, law-enforcement paradigm. Case in point: the failure of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s handling of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial and now failed-Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is being treated as an everyday criminal, thus losing the chance to gain enormously valuable information on al Qaeda activities and plans in Yemen and beyond. These decisions have not been lost on Americans. In an Ipsos/McClatchy poll in late December (pre-Christmas Day bombing attempt), 35 percent of Americans felt the Democrats would do a better job of dealing with the terrorist threat at home while 42 percent favored Republicans.

On the proliferation front, the “Open Hand” policy has failed. Pyongyang and Tehran continue the advancement of their nuclear weapons programs at our national security expense.

Both our ability to shape the global war on terror and deter nuclear rogue states has been hampered by the Obama administration’s agenda to pursue global governance. Under global governance treaties and organizations, of which the Left has historically drawn an affinity towards, the United States subjects its national sovereignty to international authority, accordingly reducing its ability to formulate necessary proactive national security strategies.

The president needs to show the world that he is serious about America’s security. With the exception of his lone national security success, the troop surge in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama has not proved up to the task.