by Austin Bay
July 18, 2002
Part One of Five
Don't call it antiquated pop art, that recruiting poster with a
lean, stern and earnest Uncle Sam. Above the printed caption, "I want you
for the U.S. Army," he points a decisive finger in our uneasy direction.
Originally published in July 1916 as the cover for an issue of
Leslie's Weekly, over 4 million poster copies were printed after America
went to war. That poster still makes a crucial statement about defense in a
democracy. In a democracy, we do share the burden of mutual security. Give
Sam credit. He's put his finger on the guys who are ultimately responsible.
Perhaps a gifted graphic artist will produce an equivalent
poster for The War on Terror. One version of that new poster must address
domestic security -- what we now call homeland defense.
Homeland defense doesn't begin at the Pentagon, or in the White
House, or at the local police station. Local defense begins with the locals.
And it doesn't get more local than thee and me.
Oddly enough, it is at this level of "most local involvement"
that the Bush administration has been least effective in waging the
anti-terror war. The administration has not sufficiently emphasized the
crucial role of citizen commitment in the counter-terror struggle. We must
find ways to tap the American citizenry's great reservoir of willingness in
the aftermath of Sept. 11.
What you and I do, or do not do -- what conveniences we demand
or inconveniences we accept -- does reinforce or erode the domestic security
effort. Sometimes that fact gets lost or obscured in the mass transit, mass
media and mass complications of American life.
But evidence of mutual sacrifice and willingness to cooperate
abounds. New York cops and firemen, as they saved thousands of lives at the
World Trade Center, demonstrated that mutual security is a recognition of
and commitment to community.
Keeping thy brother and sister certainly doesn't require a
uniform. Take United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11. Thomas Burnett phoned
his wife, told her the plane had been hijacked and said, "There's three of
us who are going to do something about it." Todd Beamer's last words are
true grit: "Are you guys ready? Let's roll!" Flight 93's passengers weren't
going to let Al Qaeda terrorists smash it into Camp David or the Capitol.
The domestic (homeland) front is a front line in this war and
has been since Al Qaeda's first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
The American public understands this. Unfortunately, their most
frequent direct contact with the front is the grinding suspicion of
pre-flight searches at the airport, where citizens often feel as if the
government thinks they're the enemy. The 55-year-old bald and paunchy white
guy has his Rockports checked for TNT. The 80-year-old black grandmother
gets scowls from the snitty guard with a metal detector. Yes, her knitting
needle could be a weapon.
At the moment, the policy wonks creating the Department of
Homeland Defense are grappling with this question, "Will the public accept,
in the long term, other restrictions that may be necessary to deter further
terrorist attacks?" They need to ask the "positive" version of this
question, "How can the public contribute to our mutual security in this
long-term, long-haul war?"
The answer, of course, will be a mix of programs, perhaps a
World War II War Bond-type drive, with police and firefighter bond drives
that dedicate funds to specific local defense needs. There will be media
campaigns to raise civic awareness. States already run large-scale disaster
and terror response training exercises. The general public deserves the
opportunity to participate in those exercises, as well.
This column begins a five-part series on homeland defense and
domestic security issues as they relate to the War on Terror. Subsequent
columns cover a range of issues -- protecting infrastructure, sharing
intelligence, "offense as defense." These large-scale issues are vitally
important, of course, but we cannot underestimate the fundamental
significance of the individual citizen's commitment and participation in the
defense effort. It goes well beyond paying taxes.
World War II's "Loose Lips Sink Ships" reminded the American
public that what we said could put a Victory ship in the path of a U-boat's
torpedo. Lips got zipped. Today, "Sharp Eyes Save Lives."
Uncle Sam needs us for our mutual security. Homeland defense
means the home boys and girls must get involved.