TCS Daily

America's Harsh Introduction to 'Homeland Defense'

By Kevin Generous - September 19, 2001 12:00 AM

Defending the homeland is an ancient concept in world history, yet America's recent experience with `homeland defense` is limited. That is about to change. The coordinated attacks on New York` and Washington has added a tragic chapter in our experience and has given new urgency to the need for America to address homeland defense issues.

Historically, large oceans have held our enemies at bay and allowed us time to prepare defenses against serious threats. After World War II, homeland defense deterred the Soviet Union by means of offensive nuclear weapons. After the Cold War, the United States faces new threats, including potential use of rogue state missiles, foreign terrorism at home, weapons of mass destruction, and information warfare (cyber-war). These threats are designed to counter unquestioned American military superiority by exploiting key American vulnerabilities and weaknesses - often abroad, but increasingly here at home.

These attacks propel issues of homeland defense into the forefront of America`s consciousness. Today American citizens, families and communities are on the `front lines` of a new conflict. A new debate over how we defend their homeland, and what steps are needed to do it, is required.

What is "homeland defense?" Homeland defense typically considers the following tasks: Prevent and deter attacks on the United States by foreign enemies and terrorist groups; Respond to a direct attack on US territory or terrorist crisis; and Manage the consequences after an attack.

Homeland defense involves many participants - the military, intelligence agencies, domestic federal agencies, state and local organizations as well as individual citizens, right down to the "first responders" to emergencies at the community level.

However, organizing national efforts for `homeland defense` will be a massive undertaking. Among the difficult issues we now must address include how to organize to meet new security challenges without losing our cherished freedoms.

National leaders are now contemplating an initial national military response to the attacks. But, in addition to giving blood, making donations and flying our flag, what can the average American do? We should turn what President Bush called our "quiet unyielding anger" into a national dialogue at all levels on unconventional threats to our homeland. Some assumptions can form the basis of such a dialogue:

  • These 21st century threats affect all of us. These threats do not discriminate between Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, men, women, or children.

  • We are at war with not only `terrorists,` but also with their state sponsors. These people are undeterred by threats of conventional or nuclear retaliation against them. Defense matters.

  • We must anticipate future attacks with unconventional weapons we know our enemies can or will acquire. They will likely employ ballistic and cruise missiles, chemical, biological, or radiological weapons-weapons for which we have no or limited defenses.

  • Threats from ballistic missiles will top the list of future unconventional threats. 'Rogue' states are now spending vast amounts of their national wealth to build ballistic missile systems. Why? Because America has no defense at all against them, a glaring vulnerability our enemies will sooner or later exploit.

  • We can and must `afford` to defend ourselves from these threats. The first constitutional responsibility of the Federal government is to defend American citizens. There is no excuse for cutting corners in providing for America`s defense.

  • Our response must be proactive, not reactive. We need to know more about the intentions and plans of enemies who cannot have the luxury of planning future attacks in safe sanctuary.

  • Our national response requires sustained leadership at all levels, additional resources, and public support for these efforts. These attacks are a wake-up call to all Americans. The time to begin this dialogue is now.


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