Issues2004: Homeland security

Issues2004: Homeland security

: This post will be unlike the prior Issues2004 because it’s more personal and, yes, emotional and less specific; I have to begin with my perspective on terrorism and I’m not sure where to end on homeland security.

Of course, witnessing terrorism firsthand changed my view of war. In front of my blog readers three years ago, I lost my ’60s-legacy pacifism and became the liberal hawk. I also reordered all my political priorities. Terrorism is real. Protecting ourselves and our children is our most vital task. This is a president’s most important job. This is the issue voters care about above all others.

So you would think that our strategy and resolve would be utterly clear but they were not; that’s how the 9/11 Commission drove a truck through the hole in our national debate. I blame neither side for this; I blame both. I’m not sure why we are not more united on at least this front. Perhaps it’s denial, perhaps its odd American optimism, I don’t know.

But we must affirm and reaffirm that we are at war and that we must protect against our enemy.

I’m scared to death of these fascist lunatics who are our enemy. This makes me tolerant of a lot. The more they check us in the airport, the better. Want to pass along data about me and my travels from the airline to the government? No problem; I won’t be one of those people screeching about privacy. What’s private? I’m on the plane in public. I have nothing to hide and everything to gain. More cops? Great! Interview foreigners? Well, who else? Check cargo? I wish we could afford to search it all. Patriot Act? You don’t hear me wailing about it. Our ancestors gave up butter and nylon stockings in other wars. We can give up a little data.

I never want to witness what I saw on September 11th again. Yes, I am willing to give up privacy to help assure that. And, no, I don’t think we need to give up fundamental rights. We have a Constitution and courts that protect those rights; I have faith in that.

But I also know that government cannot protect and provide for us like God in Eden. I did not join in the finger-pointing of the 9/11 Commission; I saw no point in fooling ourselves into thinking that we could have prevented the attacks.

I also have not joined in the stampede to adopt the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations without debate. As I’ve said often (see the links atop this post), I’d prefer to see our leaders debate the recommendations rather than blindly adopting them and thinking that will make us safe.

I’d prefer to see the candidates falling over themselves to outdo the Commission and find better solutions. Instead, they played catchup with the Commission. That makes homeland security too easy. That’s fooling ourselves.

But the candidates do have more than just the 9/11 Commission stands on their own web sites. Here is Bush’s and here is Kerry’s. I say, yes, give us all that and more. I wish we didn’t have to do this. I wish we didn’t have to spend all this money to fight this enemy. But we do.

So I don’t have a specific wish-list on this issue except to have the confidence that future presidents in years to come will do what they can to protect us. On a recent Bill Maher show, noted security expert and foundering sitcom star Jason Alexander said that no president will or can afford to drop the ball on homeland security and I agree with that. It’s our job to keep the pressure on and not think that we’ve ever solved this problem and to support the measures needed.

Your ideas?