The Feb. 19, 2007, issue of U.S. News & World Report contains two must-read articles. The first, titled What is Plan C?, is by Kevin Whitelaw and Anna Mulrine. They describe a subject not openly discussed by Bush officials: What do we do if Plan B, the so-called surge, doesnt work? Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, puts the odds of Plan B succeeding at probably less than 1 in 4. They list five last-ditch alternatives: 1. Complete withdrawal; 2. Partitioning the country; 3. Installing a strongman dictator; 4. Attacking Iran; and 5. Leaving Baghdad and creating safe containment zones for refugees. They describe these options as ranging from ugly to abhorrent.
The second article is a chilling excerpt from Stephen Flynns new book, The Edge of DisasterRebuilding a Resilient Nation. Flynn is a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer, a homeland security expert, and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Congress frequently has him testify on ports-and-border security matters. He is the author of the 2004 national best-selling book, America the VulnerableHow Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us From Terrorism.
In this book, he compares Bushs War on Terrorism with the Phony War in France just before Hitlers Third Reich took control of much of Europe. The Phony War was a period of false calm before the storm… When it comes to confronting terrorism, the United States is going through its own version of the Phony War… as citizens are (urged) to keep shopping and traveling. Instead of mobilizing a defense against enemies who are intent on targeting innocent civilians and critical infrastructure, the U.S. government is placing its faith in familiar national security formulas. Washington is acting on the false premise that the terrorist threat can be contained by taking the battle to the enemy… Of course, Bush backers constantly resort to this disingenuous argument when challenged to defend both Plan A and Plan B.
In the interest of stimulating a public outcry over this disgraceful failure to invest needed resources in homeland security, I paraphrase three key quotes from the excerpt of Flynns 2007 book.
The $20 to $30 million cost to convert oil refineries to technologies less apt to inflict massive civilian casualties in the event of a terrorist attack represents what we spend every 2-3 hours on the war in Iraq.
The Pentagon has requested $15.5 billion to protect itself from terrorist attacks, which means the Department of Defense is spending 10 times more on itself than the federal government is spending on our major cities.
China has invested 9 percent of its GDP in infrastructure improvements, while America has spent 1/10 of 1 percent of its GDP on similar upgrades.
Flynn stated on NPR (Feb. 20) that since there is no way to prevent all terrorist attacks, we need to refocus our efforts to minimize the effect of such attacks, and enable recovery. This is what he calls being resilient. While the states and local governments have responsibility, only the national government has the ability to coordinate the overall effort. He also said that the Department of Homeland Security was set up for failure, given that it is woefully under-funded and under-staffed.
Genuine security experts have known this all along. Yet, Bush continues to say, incredulously, that protecting the homeland is his first priority. Flynn says its a second-rate priority, and calls it madness, saying, There are things we can and must be doing, right now, to make America a more resilient society. While I agree that Bushs homeland security effort is madness, I think his minimalist approach borders on abdication of duty.
Flynn concludes in the Afterword of America the Vulnerable that evading a concerted effort to protect the United States at home by focusing almost exclusively on taking the battle to the enemy is a formula for disaster. And this was his central message in 2004.
What can you do? I suggest that flooding the blogosphere and halls of Congress with cries of outrage would be a good way to start. Until the American public demands it, nothing will change in the White House regarding fundamental homeland security protections.
W. Harrison Goodenow is a Rockford resident and independent voter who hasnt, with one notable exception, voted Democratic since JFK.
from the issue March 14-20, 2007, issue