Tom Friedmanâ€™s piece in yesterdayâ€™s NYT made a heck of a sound point: â€œWe have to get our groove back.â€ By that he means that the America we knew may have changed on 9/11, but it doesnâ€™t need to go on changing along the same hyper-secure trajectory along which the costs risk outweighing the benefits.Â Iâ€™ll be the first to admit that our efforts to secure the homeland against terrorism are needed and unfinished. However, Friedmanâ€™s observation suggests we do not need to have only two views on this issue:
In one corner we have the New York Times editorial staff. In the other corner is Secretary Chertoff. The NYT ran an editorial suggesting that the Administrationâ€™s invocation of 9/11 and the terrorist threat supports political objectives and obscures the real challenge of securing the homeland. Secretary Chertoffâ€™s â€œhow dare youâ€ rebuttal roundly criticized the NYT for failing to mention a number of accomplishments and risking the reemergence of another vulnerability:Â a public’s erodingÂ commitment.
Break it up, gentlemen. Freidman offers a third way that makes sense. Recognize that we are winning in the fight against terrorism, narrowly defined. Consider the externalities of our â€œglobal war on terror,â€ particularly the ones that come back to bite us (i.e. declining credibility in crucial regions, important international organizations, and visitors to the U.S. that make this country great).
Despite all the negative overtones when just about anyone in the world is asked about the fight against terrorism that followed 9/11, we are not in it alone. While researching this topic I found several dedicated programs underway at the European Union, NATO, and countless non-government organizations. Get this: thereâ€™s an International Institute for Homeland Security, Defense and Restoration. Sign me up. We run a serious risk of losing the fight against terrorism and the effort to protect civilan populations if we fail to work together. Collaboration can be a decisive advantage.Â Thatâ€™s something the terrorists canâ€™t attack.
However, Friedmanâ€™s correct when he points out that we can lose this fight by simply changing who we are. Its just not worth it to be secure in a non-America where the role of government, free speech, and commitments to the next generation are obscured. Friedman calls for a â€œ9/12â€ mentality as opposed to a â€œ9/11â€ mindset.
If the NYT is 9/10 and the Secretary is 9/11, who will represent the 9/12 way forward? Perhaps we should give some space on this site for the presidential campaigns to weigh inâ€¦.