Wednesday, July 13, 2005

How We Can Prevail - Is Bush Listening?

Zakaria gets it right in this Newsweek Article. "To realize victory, we have to understand this struggle is more complex than we have been led to believe. Simple slogans telling us we fight terrorists in Iraq so that we will not have to fight them here, are just that: slogans, not comprehensive policies. In fact, as London shows, terrorists can fight in two places at the same time. Or three. Or 10. And the great danger, of course, is that they can fight with dangerous weapons. The calculus of terror would change irrevocably if one of these splinter groups were ever to get its hands on nuclear materials or biological pathogens. So far the Bush administration has not given this danger the priority it urgently requires.

The broader shift that needs to take place, however, is a better definition of victory. America's political leaders continue to give their citizens the impression that victory means ensuring that there will be no other attack on American soil as long as we go on the offense abroad, get perfect intelligence, buy fancy new technologies at home, screen visas and lock some people up. But all these tough tactics and all the intelligence in the world will not change the fact that in today's open societies, terrorism is easy to carry out. The British authorities, perhaps the world's best at combating terror, admit they had no warning about last week's attack. The American response to the London bombs has been a perfect example of U.S. grandstanding. We immediately raised the alert level, scaring Americans, with no specific information about terror attacks in America. Why? Because were something to happen here, politicians and bureaucrats want to be able to say, 'Don't blame us, we told you.'

Real victory is not about preventing all attacks everywhere. No one can guarantee that. It's really about preventing the worst kinds of attacks, and responding well to others. And on this score, America remains woefully unprepared. 'The British attacks failed because Britain has excellent response systems and its people are well prepared on how to respond. America has neither advantage today,' says Stephen Flynn, a homeland-security expert and author of 'America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us From Terrorism.' 'We need good education and training for transit workers and citizens, good communication mechanisms among government agencies and the people, and most important, a good public-health infrastructure.' We have little of this today. In the years after 9/11 we have wasted much time, effort and money on other priorities rather than engaging in the massive investment in the systems of response that we need. Our leaders remain unwilling to speak honestly about the world we live in and to help people develop the mentality of response that is essential to prevailing."


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