Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 24, 2009

Homeland Security is about destroying terrorism

Filed under: International HLS — by Christopher Bellavita on November 24, 2009

I spent two days in Turkey last week. I had been asked to give a paper about “Homeland Security in the U.S. After 9/11” at a NATO counter-terrorism conference.  Somehow I had the impression it was supposed to be an academic paper. So that’s what I wrote.

Once the conference started, it took me about 15 minutes to realize none of the 60 participants would have much interest in hearing  about “U.S. homeland security as the emergent consequence of a complex adaptive system.”

When it was  my turn to present, I made up something else to talk about. I hobbled through my 30 minutes doing, I think, little lasting damage to U.S. — NATO relations.
The homeland security vision outlined in the 2007 strategy says that “along with our partners in the international community” we “will work to achieve a secure homeland that sustains our way of life as a free, prosperous, and welcoming America.”

When Phil Palin wrote for this blog, he would occasionally write about the international part of homeland security. His perception was most people were not interested in that topic. Count me as one of those people. There’s enough to focus on domestically, and one has only so much mental bandwidth.

They say — whoever “they” are — travel broadens one.  I now consider myself getting a little broadened.
The conference included representatives from 19 countries.  What I thought would be an academic conference turned out to be a meeting filled (mostly) with young (30 to 40 year old) military officers primarily from eastern European and Asian nations — Moldova, Ukraine, Romania, Azerbaijan, Jordan, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Bosnia, Singapore, and several other countries.
There also were half a dozen senior army officers from Pakistan. A few weeks ago they had been in the midst of the Afghanistan/Pakistan battlefields. I asked them who they were fighting, who the enemy was, and why they were fighting. I was told, in the rhythmic speech patterns of the Pakistani version of English, “Good question. We don’t know. We are soldiers. We follow orders. We fight.”

The answer surprised me a little. Actually it surprised me a lot.
The conference was conducted in English. While not all the participants spoke English fluently, they all understood English quite well. (How is it the language of a small island in the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere turned into the common tongue of the world? I’m sure there are books that explain how that happened. Maybe someone can suggest one of those books for my holiday reading.)
There was no doubt Turkey is at war. As we entered our hotel, we had to pass through metal detectors and our baggage was screened, just like the airport. The road to the conference was peppered with barbed wire enclaves, concrete blocks, sniper towers, and other martial artifacts. The meeting facility was in a compound, secured by seriously armed soldiers. (During one of the breaks, I watched a helmeted soldier, weapon at the ready position, looking straight ahead at the highway, about 100 yards in front of him.  I watched him for 5 minutes.  He did not turn his head once.)

Terrorism is real not just for Turkey, but for practically all the states represented at the conference. (Heard anything lately about the Tartar separatists in Crimea?) In the world represented by the participants at the security conference, the reality of terrorism is substantially different from what I experience the “terrorist threat” to be in the United States.

Despite the somewhat numbing title of the conference — “NATO Advanced Research Workshop: Homeland Security Organization in Defense Against Terrorism” — the officers were not at the conference to listen to research findings. They wanted something practical to take back to their own “homeland.”
In subsequent posts I will summarize some of what I consider to be highlights of the conference, including  Al Qaeda’s most significant success in the terrorism wars, the difference between Mohammad’s Mecca and Medina periods and its impact on understanding the concept of jihad, Singapore’s strategy for countering radicalization, and what comes next after “homeland security” is no longer in vogue.
I’ll conclude this introductory post with two observations.

First, some people may think the word “homeland” is an awkwardly Teutonic name for national security. But the term seems to be in the process of being adopted in both old and new Europe, and in parts of Asia.

That surprised me.

In the U.S., it is not unusual to be cynical about the phrase “homeland security.” Elsewhere in the world, it symbolizes a new opportunity to shape — for good or for ill —  security futures.

Second, I am persuaded by people like Louise Richardson (“What Terrorists Want”) and others that terrorism cannot be defeated. But, like the old Soviet Union, it can successfully be contained. I think there is substantial theoretical and historical support for that position.

During my thirty minute presentation, I explained how in the United States “homeland security” is often used as a synonym for concern about fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and other incidents — in addition to terrorism — that constitute “all hazards.”

The participants listened politely.  But they were not buying any of it.  For them, homeland security is only about terrorism.  And the people in that conference room want terrorism destroyed.

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Comment by Clinton J. Andersen

November 24, 2009 @ 8:45 am

:-) If you get a room full of international military officers, chances are they aren’t going to like anything you present to them. Chances are, they don’t even want to be there, “they were just following orders” or, as we liked to call it in the Air Force, were “Voluntold” to be there.

I appreciate the domestic aspect of homeland security as well. There’s so much that happens international that when it comes down to it, the domestic side often lacks.

And as far as English is concerned, I was once told it was the international language of business and if a Japanese person and Saudi person got together that they would speak English to conduct their business. Whose to say if that’s really true or not? However, if you look at the history books, a good majority of it dealt with commerce and trade involving Europe. Now the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia all primarily speak English but that’s only about 6% of the World Population. Regardless, moving up through history, at one point if somebody wanted to do any sort of international business chances are they would have had to speak to someone who spoke English.

Now, it is the second most spoken language in the world behind Mandarin.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 24, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

Many good histories of the British Empire out there. Laurence Henry Gipson’s multi-volume “History of the British Empire in North America” a good one to explain why we (US) uses English primarily rather than French or Spanish.
Actually an interesting and fascinating post to me. I would as oft stated have preferred the words “Civil Security Department” as opposed to the somewhat similar to totalitarian description of Motherland or Fatherland. But hey that is what we (US) has now!
The problem for the world is the issue of terrorism is not going away ever. So how is it contained. And is it better contained by the military or civil institutions of a country in the long run. I vote for the latter. But many would disagree!
Why! Militaries, which by the way run 90% of the domestic disaster relief efforts in most of the world except for US, are crude instruments of power. Yet the US has totally relied on the military since the end of the Korean War. Why should a democracy with our democratic charters have made this choice. Partially, weak political leadership. Partially, once industry and academic world geared to empire and militarizm hard to break that pattern. Well my guess is that OBAMA is about to sign on to the world of continuing to field a largely Christian army and forces in an Islamic state or territories. Why that choice? The GWOT and the “you are with US or against US” formula has led to the more complexity not less in our (US) foreign affairs and foreign relations. And as for staring straight ahead as you mention the Turkish guard on duty at the conference, instances of summary execution by NCO’s of guards failing in their duty were not unknown until fairly recently in the Turkish military. Ruthless discipline is one reason all feared the Turks after the destruction of the Malemukes [Egypt] by the Ottomans [Turkey] in I believe 1576! Hey the Ottomans also had rifles and artillery against swords but what dif since unit cohesion was much stronger with the Ottoman forces, who after all did get to the gates of Vienna several times in the next 125 years.

Comment by JB

November 24, 2009 @ 5:49 pm

History of the English Speaking Peoples, by Churchill

Comment by Clinton J. Andersen

November 24, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

I’d agree Bill, that those things should be left to the civil institutions. However, the problem is that when it comes to funding and equipment, the military receives the brunt of that. 55 Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Teams are a great example. Take any municipality and compare their WMD/CBRN training and the Guards training and I don’t believe it will even come close. There needs to be a policy shift from the civilian side in order to get there.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 25, 2009 @ 6:25 am

There is an interesting history to the NG civil support teams. And remember until federalized under Title 10 the NG remain a state asset controlled by the Governors. Well when then Senator Sam Nunn panicked over preparations for possible terrorist attacks at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (and in my judgement the Olympics starting with the deaths of the Israeli competitors in Munich really brought home terrorism to the American people because of Jim McKay’s brilliant 24 hour coverage of that terrible tragedy)is a real starting point for terrorism being on the horizon of the average citizen. When Nunn staff asked to be briefed by the Executive Branch on its efforts to prepare for possible attacks at the Olympics they were dismayed to learn of complete unpreparedness and chaotic efforts in the Executive Branch, including DOD. Their operating assumption at that point is that while knowledge, technical response skills and other competencies existed in DOD it was and should be a civilian responsibilty. The FEMA briefers has not a clue and even more alarmed the committee staff (Armed Service)! All FEMA individual briefers long retired or dead. So in drafting what became Title XIV of the DOD authorization act for 1996, the Defense Against Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, the Nunn staff assigned the responsibility for preparedness, response and recovery to DOD for a period of three (3) years with possible transfer to a civilian agency with Presidential approval after that passage of time. So what happened. In DOD which was caught flat-footed they assigned the function of civil support for WMD and terrorism to the NG. Remember that 90-95% of NG training, equipment, and salaries, including monthly weekend training and two weeks active each year are paid for by the federal government. What the Governor’s of course need and fear is that without their own technical engineering battalions and manpower they need the NG in natural disasters and really need the NG if a law enforcement presence needs expansion due to riot or civil disorder.
On with the story–So the first civil support teams are established and now with passage of time DOD wants out. So again this function is offered FEMA who again refuses the assignment (see among other documents PD-39 issued after the MURRAH Bldg bombing in Oklahoma City)! So the Department of Justice eagerly seeks the role and gets it by Presidential reassignment. In the meantime Congress and the NG like the civil support team concept gradually expanding it. So what does DOJ get well it reached fruition after 9/11 but local law enforcement assistance is given for terrorism and related matters. See Anti-Terroism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 which also through pass through to the US Fire Administration, part of FEMA, geared up response to terrorist act consequences for the FIRE SERVICE and training appropriately started at the FEMA/USFA Emmittsburg Facility. Interestingly the leadership of FEMA outside the Fire Administration had no idea FEMA was already involved with training locals on terrorism response and recovery. Short history and basically accurate IMO. Of course in DOJ the Office of Domestic Preparedness was created to fund the new activity and AG Janet Reno also created a National Domestic Preparedness Office. Never a line item the latter was used to prevent even more transfers of budget and staff to the new DHS when created so the later org was transferred with much hoopla from DOJ to DHS with no budget and no staff. How again the civil GLOT was fought by hand to hand combat between Executive Branch agencies. Even now the NG roles in the civil support teams have no clear mission statement or capability assessment but yes they do exist, bright shiny and ready to go. let’s see how well they work in an actual WMD incident/event/attack?

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 25, 2009 @ 6:32 am

Of course GLOT in the above comment should have been GWOT (Global War on Terror) a term no longer in use apparently.

A short history of the rise and fall of that terminology will be great interest in the future perhaps to anthropologists.

Comment by William R. Cumming

November 25, 2009 @ 6:45 am

By the way I notice LTC Ralph Peters (RET) is suggesting that all enemy combatants not in uniform be shot on sight by US forces. Suppose that means that innocents caught up as hostages or whatever also might have to suffer the consequences.

Ah the wonders of a Christian ARMY operating in an Islamic nation-state or whatever. Again reading William McNeil’s masterpiece of 1963 “The Rise of the West” and fascinated by how much effort he puts into writing about China, India, and the Islamic world and their relationships with ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the mideavil Western Eurpoean world. This book should be required reading for all those above the rank of Specialist 4 in the US ARMY. I assume the political leadership of the US would also benefit. This is my third time through and each time learn more and more from this important history.

Comment by econobiker

November 30, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

Bring back the Civil Defense and refigure the whole deal on FEMA though the NG and TSA. And get the N/G out of the providing “temp” soldiers to war needs arena also.

And (IMHO) “Homeland Security” was/is always a goofy name slightly on the bent of WWII Soviet propaganda posters.

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