Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 30, 2005

Do we need a World Security Organization?

Filed under: International HLS — by Christian Beckner on December 30, 2005

Former Congressman Tom McMillen has an interesting and provocative comment on homeland security at Huffington Post that recounts his experience as a young Olympic athlete in Munich in 1972, discusses his reactions to the film Munich, and puts forth an original and common-sense agenda for homeland security that includes the following items (slightly paraphrased for succinctness):

1. Fund our homeland security needs by level of risk and not by politics.
2. Establish a World Security Organization modeled after the World Health Organization.
3. Engage our young people who do not believe terrorism presents a danger to them.
4. Secure nuclear material globally today, not a decade from now.
5. Develop the will to finance responsibly the war on terror.

The second proposal, for a World Security Organization, is particularly intriguing and worthy of further discussion. It gets to an idea that I’ve been obsessed with for the last three years: what sort of international framework do we need to govern and enhance homeland security activities on a global basis?

McMillen writes

We sorely need a global organization dedicated to mobilizing the resources of the many nations needing stability. Over 50% of the funds spent on global security is spent by the United States, while nations like China and India spend very little, less than 5% of worldwide governmental security spending. While these nations may think that global terrorism, since it is not a threat within their borders, does not affect them, they must realize that they, by necessity, have a huge stake in a stable, terror-free world. China, for example, has amassed over a trillion dollar trade surplus with the US just since 1990. Without a stable world and a stable US economy, where would China’s economy be? Isn’t it time for the US to ask for significant world support for the war on terror?

I agree with the problem that McMillen identifies here, but have some concerns as to whether creating a new international organization is the right solution, unless it is done the right way. For one, it’s too often the case that international organizations become ineffective bureaucratic paper-pushers. That’s not what is needed and would probably be counterproductive. For another, there are a number of existing international organizations that already play this role to some degree, such as Interpol, IAEA, WHO, ICAO, IMO, and the WCO. The relationship of a new “World Security Organization” to these existing agencies needs to be clarified.

However, I would be in favor of a World Security Organization that was light and flexible in its design – almost a special-ops force structure – and had a clear and narrowly-defined mandate that included the following responsibilities:

– Provide a means to agree upon and jump start the implementation of global homeland security policies and activities such as the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the G8 SAFTI initiative.
– Create an international funding mechanism that can be used to share costs and also provide homeland security-related assistance to at-risk developing countries.
– Provide a forum to share best practices on an international basis in diverse areas such as response training, WMD detection, and critical infrastructure protection.
– Provide a forum for agreements on interoperability and technical standards for homeland security technologies such as biometrics and cargo seals.

It will be interesting to see if this idea begins to enter the policy dialogue. I’m glad to see McMillen bring it up.

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