by Austin Bay
Aug 7, 2002
If you want to defend Here, take it to them Over There.
As Congress debates and the administration constructs the new
Department of Homeland Security, we need to remember that the best homeland
defense includes a very good offense.
Offense, however, isn't the sole province of the Pentagon.
Terrorist attacks are a persistent form of surprise attack. If
an open society -- this America, with porous borders, free movement and a
population that appreciates convenience -- intends to avoid terrorist
surprise, it needs to stop terrorists before they strike.
Human imagination is a wonderful gift. However, imagination
stoked by fear will always find new fears. During a recent highway trek, I
listened to a couple of radio talk shows hash over "Condition Yellow," the
Homeland Security Advisory System's tag for an "elevated" threat of
terrorist attack. The U.S. government color codes threat levels -- green is
"low," blue "guarded," orange "high," but the fearful always see red (which,
by the way, indicates a "severe" threat).
Paint one caller's imagination screaming scarlet: He saw
vulnerability everywhere. Despite his case of public jitters, credit him for
honesty -- since 9-11, we've all seen shadows. Another caller, however noted
the threat level had been "yellow" for months, with possible attacks on the
Golden Gate Bridge, an unnamed seaport and Washington mentioned in the media
as imminent targets. Yellow verged on a continuous cry of "Wolf."
The truth is, these ARE imminent targets for apocalyptic
terrorists and future terror strikes remain likely. Yes, domestic security
has tightened. The American media is now security conscious. We've more
lights, cops and news cameras covering the shadows. However, security is
never a sure thing. Sit and wait, even as you put moats and walls around
Fortress Kansas, and in classic military terms, the enemy has the
The U.S.-directed military offensive in Afghanistan took the
global initiative back from Al Qaeda. Last fall's smackdown of the Taliban
dealt America's terrorist adversaries a severe psychological and moral blow.
This spring's Operation Anaconda killed Al Qaeda fighters in droves --
though, unfortunately, largely outside the eyes of a press corps that could
confirm the extent of the success. Don't underestimate the connectivity.
Battlefield victory makes the FBI's job much easier.
The arrest in Pakistan of Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda ringmaster,
has exposed terrorist cells in Seattle and Oregon.
Attacking terrorist financial operations is a difficult
offensive operation, but the nodes and networks supporting terrorist gangs
are under siege. Are they smashed? Of course not. The siege and squeeze,
however, has thrown terrorist operations out of kilter.
Certain support nodes don't succumb to aggressive diplomacy,
embargo and special forces strikes. Don't buy the balderdash that an attack
on Iraq isn't justified. Saddam has violated the post-Desert Storm U.N.
resolutions that allowed him to stay in power. That's all the justification
required. However, rogue states empower terrorist networks. Saddam's
destruction will serve as an object lesson to other states on or near the
axis of evil.
The offense -- at least, the offense America needs to wage an
effective counter-terror war -- must also begin at home. I'm not sure I
believe the headlines that 5,000 Al Qaeda faithful lurk inside U.S. borders,
but out of 280 million people, statistics make a case. Racial profiling's an
ugly practice, one with a shameful history. However, a terrorist "criminal
profile" has emerged, and it requires a shameful lack of intellectual
integrity to deny it.
The terrorist faithful tend to fall into the category of male,
foreign-born, Muslim, angry, Arab and in America on iffy or byzantine visas.
Hounded by reactionary cadres of the politically correct, we're reluctant to
acknowledge any of these characteristics except the anger and possibly the
No question -- a Johnny Lindh Walker could try to sneak TNT on a
plane, but that's why we need well-trained, professional personnel
conducting thorough security searches.
A good offense risks offending a few people. The State
Deptartment is going to offend when it shuts down the Visa Express, but our
pre-9/11 visa controls bordered on farce.
"Terrorist profiling," tempered by civil liberty safeguards, is
a necessary security tool for focusing security resources, and to argue
otherwise risks lives and offends common sense.