How Ridge Can Secure the Homeland
Op-Ed, Boston Globe
October 4, 2001
Author: Ashton B. Carter, Former Co-Director, Preventive Defense Project, Harvard & Stanford Universities
How Ridge can secure the homeland
By Ashton B. Carter 10/4/2001
GOVERNOR TOM Ridge has been appointed homeland security czar by President Bush. As he contemplates this new responsibility, he will not find Pearl Harbor to be a very helpful historical reference for what he needs to do.
Pearl Harbor, as Bush himself acknowledged, called upon the US government to organize a traditional war with a clear enemy and clear definition of victory. Not only was it obvious what the national response was to be, but crucially it was clear how to organize and manage the effort. That job was given to the military: no new agency was needed after Pearl Harbor, no new czar.
A somewhat later moment in American experience provides a better model for what Ridge should do - when Joseph Stalin exploded the Soviet A-bomb in 1949. To be sure, the explosion took place on the steppes of Central Asia, not an American city. But then as now, Americans were suddenly gripped by the prospect of warlike damage being visited upon their homeland by a shadowy enemy with global tentacles.
The situation in 1949 was not war but something new for which a new phrase was coined: Cold War. George Kennan, in his famous cable from Moscow, foretold that this new type of war would last decades and need to be fought patiently and resolutely. The nation mobilized a response that was multi-faceted and inventive.
Nuclear bombers, ballistic missiles, and submarines were built for retaliation and deterrence. Spy satellites were launched for warning. Air defenses were mounted for protection. Civil defense programs were devised to save lives if the worst came. NATO and other alliances were formed to get more friends on America's side, and the Marshall Plan was conceived to ensure that economic desperation in Europe did not become an ally of Stalin. The effort was massive, multi-agency, and coordinated by the White House.
America's leaders recognized that the situation was so new and dangerous that they needed a capacity to think and learn, not merely react. They founded such think tanks as the Rand Corporation to devise innovative methods of coping with the era''s new danger.
There were excesses in 1949, too. Reds were hunted under beds, in the State Department, and in Hollywood.
Governor Ridge needs now to organize the government once again for a new type of war - countering catastrophic terrorism. His approach should include retaliation and criminal prosecution, to be sure. But he will need to devise a far broader response than our leaders have sketched out so far, something more like what followed Stalin''s A-bomb explosion.
For warning, he will need measures ranging from better spies to sniffers of chemical and biological agents installed in subway tunnels, water supplies, and government buildings. For protection, he will need vaccines against anthrax, bomb-resistant building codes, and cyber firewalls to keep computer viruses out of critical information networks. He will need to coordinate federal, state, and local first responders to minimize the loss of life if terrorists strike again. America will need a NATO-like coalition of friends and supporters worldwide, and we will need to improve the economic and political conditions that provide safe harbor for terrorism.
Ridge has a big job ahead of him. Certainly he can do it, but only if given the tools. The multi-faceted effort needed now does not fall neatly into the job description of any federal agency. Terrorism is simultaneously a crime, an attack, and a disaster. Ridge's job is to marshal the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies, national security agencies, and emergency response agencies. Until now, these agencies have, for the most part, worked separately on their separate problems. Now comes a problem that falls into the cracks between them. Unfortunately, White House czars have historically been toothless, unable to control the activities of Cabinet bureaucracies.
To be effective as homeland security czar, Ridge will need three things. The first will be the direct, personal, and constant support of the president to override Cabinet agencies' individual prerogatives for the greater good of a coordinated national effort. The second is influence over budget. Congress is in a mood to pump more dollars into the defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and emergency response agencies. Ridge will need to control how these new dollars are spent. The third is a Rand-like effort to out-think the terrorists and keep us one step ahead of them. The result can be the creation, over decades, of a balanced and effective program of prevention, warning, protection, response, and, yes, retaliation that will secure the homeland.
Ashton B. Carter is professor of science and international affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy under President Clinton.
This story ran on page A19 of the Boston Globe on 10/4/2001. Â© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.
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