Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 2, 2010

Reality and illusion in homeland security

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on September 2, 2010

In their posts this week, Chris Bellavita and Mark Chubb have dealt with homeland security in its broadest context.  Readership soared.

What is this homeland of which we speak?  Is it a specific place and people bounded by time and space or is it a  realm of political, economic, cultural, and spiritual creativity… America always becoming?

What is the security of which we speak?  Is it a matter of strategy, intelligence, tactics,  command and control or is true security more a matter of self-awareness, neighbors caring for neighbors, and good character?

My Wednesday and Thursday schedules have been totally upended by the approach of Earl.  My homeland security colleagues are intent on doing all they can to protect specific places and people.

Over drinks last night an old friend from the counter-terrorism side of our enterprise vented his worst worries.  He hoped the venting would help him feel better.  It didn’t.  Even under the soothing attention of good scotch and a sympathetic listener the worries remained too plausible and well beyond  certain prevention.

While considered the yin and yang of homeland security, those trying to mitigate the harm of a hurricane and those trying to prevent a terrorist attack often share a common concern.  They worry that if they cannot maintain sufficient control, all hell will break loose.   They worry a really hard hit will unravel the last seemingly frail strands of a shared  national narrative. 

These committed professionals — of every ideological hue — consider the political, economic, religious, and other divisions of our homeland and they worry America is about to implode.  The real enemy — or at least fundamental vulnerability– is Pogo’s “us”,  an us that seems increasingly fractured and at each other’s throats. 

I share the worry.  I see evidence in the morning paper, cable news and on comments to this blog.  I am sure the same evidence encourages our terrorist adversaries.

Tonight, though, my wife and I will be one of five couples meeting at the house of friends.  Around the table will be a conservative Republican elected official and a liberal health care professional (married to each other), a rightist Navy veteran and a leftist school teacher, a traditionalist farmer, a couple of highly skilled but non-credentialed technologists (one very political, the other barely at all), a libertarian lawyer, an independent receptionist, and however you choose to describe me.

We have been parents together.  We have attended church together. We have wildly different political and cultural perspectives.  Yet we love and enjoy each other in part because of the diversity we encounter in one another.

Last Saturday after the rallies on the national mall I heard (but can’t find the report) of a group from the Beck rally encountering a group from the Sharpton rally. They began shouting “USA! USA! USA!”, to which the Sharpton rally participants responded, “USA! USA! USA!”.   The two groups parted with thumbs up and laughs.

One of my favorite strategists, John Boyd, argues that our Orientation determines what we Observe and, therefore, how we Decide and Act. We should worry less and watch more, especially more carefully.   In my direct experience with a wide range of Americans I almost always find thoughtful and generous people.  If I begin by listening, they will also listen, and we each come away understanding more and appreciating one another. (As I re-read I am embarrassed by how trite this seems…  yet it is radically counter-cultural as well.)

The evidence I see suggests that television cameras (and many blogs) attract a statistical over-abundance of egotistical, dismissive, and cynical folks who need to vent their worries, but would do better to pour a scotch and find a sympathetic listener.  (Physician heal thyself.) 

The hurricane is real.  Many of the terrorist threats are real.  The anger and division of our nation is real. Our shared love of country and for each other is also real.   In each case, we can listen carefully, work with others to do what we can today, and together agree to do more tomorrow.

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” (John Lennon)

For further consideration:

The Idea of Fraternity in America by Wilson Carey McWilliams

John Boyd and OODA from Fast Company

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit

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Comment by Art Botterell

September 2, 2010 @ 2:55 am

In our ambition we’ve defined Homeland Security so broadly as to make it for all practical purposes impossible. Now the very scope of the turf we’ve carved out threatens to swallow up our ambitions. What can we learn from this?

By the same token, we’ve always had ideological divisions in this country. What makes our current environment different, IMHO, is that folks seem to be entertaining an unbounded ambition to make their own ideologies, if not universal, at least unchallengeable.

The common factor, I’m afraid, is that many of us have been acting as if we only need to feel a thing in order to make it so. Passion has become its own rationale. It’s not so much that the center doesn’t hold as that each of us individually seems to imagine we are, and have a right to be, that center. More than anything else I think a bit of humility is what we need.

And so yes… there’s nothing like a real emergency to help us get in touch with our own limits, dial back our personal and institutional ambitions, and refocus ourselves on our obligations to one another. So maybe this natural hazard will offer us a brief respite from man-versus-man arguments over who and what comprises the Homeland.


September 2, 2010 @ 3:47 am

“There it is Archimedes is training some engine upon us.” Marcellus abandoned all fighting and assault and for the future relied on a long siege.”

A piece of wood or rope projected over a wall filled the Romans with fear. Why did an old man with a mirror and pulley system prevail over a general with his weapons? Pretty grand illusions if you can afford them.

Now for reality. Keep kindling the fires and chopping deadwood. Your service weapons are great for suicides. So many terrorists, not enough bullets. It’s looking like a real long siege again. We’re about to get lots of people killed, so sue us. Do unto them before they do unto you.


September 2, 2010 @ 4:49 am

Push people and equipment to the upper limits & beyond and see what holds together and what breaks apart. The romantics will be the first to fail. At least the failure will be passionate art. A bit of Scotch alone may just be what the good doctor ordered. Love is an illusion on the rocks. He said forever, he really meant until I meet this younger hotter model.

I’m on a mission; no weapons, no cameras, no radios and everybody on the team might turn on me. For the romantics it’s always turn me on and is there an app for that? They’re all appy. Happy now? Drop your iphone from 5K feet and see how you really perform. I just ate an apple. Looks like a crappy morning, none of which changes the long siege or front page. We should be seeing more terrorist obits soon if the press doesn’t break later. Send the good news fast and hold the bad news for as long as possible.


September 2, 2010 @ 5:54 am

The Siege on Terror is going to turn the War on Terror upside down. SOTCOM can withstand a nuclear attack. War is a problem and terror is another problem. Solving a problem with a problem is generally what you might simply call a crime. Public debt is public robbery.

To get rich in politics you have to be a crook.

If they bankroll AIG and bankrupt the Pentagon we’ll all be insured + we can send more dough to Beirut and stand in bread lines in Boston. The tables keep turning and her feet hurt. Are the eggs safe? PIG for breakfast and it comes out the other end as AIG down the drain. Nobody caught the egg problem at 10 million bad eggs and now the same sort of people are going to make up the insurance loses. Got lipstick?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 2, 2010 @ 9:51 am

Many years ago when our heavily mediated world was barely a twinkle in the eye of its radio-telephone parents, Marshall McLuhan predicted that the more we watch and the less we read the more subjective we will become and the more we will engage reality with feeling rather than attempted objectivity. While I have nothing against feeling — or even romanticism — per se, I agree with Mr. McLuhan and Mr. Botterell that this seems to be a increasing problem… in homeland security and well beyond.


Comment by William R. Cumming

September 2, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

The medium of Earl is the message. Watch out!


September 2, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

“Party schools will in the future train functionaries for the various branches of our work. They will have already the basic knowledge for the general membership and candidate training and will be given the training they need for particular tasks. [We do not have the room here for a thorough treatment of the tasks and duties of party schools].

Carrying out this comprehensive decision cannot be the job of a particular functionary or department, but rather it is a job for the entire party!”

I’m pretty good at drinking beer. The kids are back in party school. My rifle bolt is missing. I’ll use something else.


September 2, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

“My fellow Americans: I’m a pundit, not a president, but since it’s a moment for taking stock of America’s role in Iraq, I want to remind you that I blew it.
I supported the war in 2003 because I thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Along with Ken Pollack, the former Clinton national security council staffer, whose 2002 book, “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,” was influential at the time, I believed a nuclear-armed Hussein was both inevitable and intolerable.

A lot of people — from Bill Clinton to the German and Israeli intelligence services — believed the same thing.” Miller at WP

You can flee or ride the storm out. Bad intelligence and worse journalism. It can go from bad to worse fast. Billions can be lost in days or hours. You just ran out of road son. Propagandists creating storms. Ride it out. Teachers keep riding the kids in party schools. They all got book deals instead of being booked and processed. Liars and thieves. What else is noo?


September 2, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

“After the county office has received the education plans of all its local groups, it will determine, based on the number of available propagandists, how many basic political courses, circles to study the biography of Stalin, circles to study the “History of the CPSU (B) for beginners and advanced students, etc, should be conducted in a factory.”

We are an education company and lie factory. Now hiring propagandists to create disillusion in Washington DC. Student aids available. Get a Countyland Security degree in two years.

Go in circles. Look for good circle leaders.
“When, for example one work group in a large factory has 14 and another 9 members for a basic course, these 23 members, candidates and non-party members can form a course. If in a MAS 6 and in the local group of the relevant village 16 members, candidates and non-party members want to study the biography of Stalin, one will form a circle from these 22 participants, assuming that a qualified circle leader is available.”

Join the circus and be a political ringmaster and write nonsense. We are going to be bigger than GM.


September 2, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

Big Ben is getting police seeing eye dogs. Go Stealers! Dingdongs.


September 3, 2010 @ 9:28 am

Paradise built in hell. Sounds like what Washington and Post propaganda writers pulled off in Iraq. Stupid journolist and lots of it. It’s looking like civil war, but hey better luck next time. Reality is the fraud can be found on the balance sheet loses. Illusion is that the stock is climbing. Until it’s falling fast of course and it can fall real fast. We only got thousands killed. Sorry!

Remember when journalism actually saved lives? That was were the profit was. Send them bomb sniffing dogs, because something smells funny. Clear the building.


September 3, 2010 @ 10:27 am

Sooner or later it’s going to be raining blood. It’s just another economic hit to me. Then it’s ghost recon time agin. They have the GM guy on board, so fraud is old hat. Don’t lose your heads.


Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 3, 2010 @ 10:45 am

I also try to detect using history. Given the chronicle of the last 5000 years, there is certainly a wisdom in skepticism. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?” But in choosing between criticising and creating, it seems to me creating is almost always the better choice. I fail to accurately assess the reality right in front of me. In pride or dispair I may pervert and manipulate reality. Even if accurate, too often I fail to act on the reality perceived. Criticism is due. But please don’t stop there. Work with me to create a better possibility, a better reality for each of us.

Comment by John Comiskey

September 4, 2010 @ 6:40 am


Thank you for your last comment/request:

“Work with me to create a better possibility, a better reality for each of us.”

I am amazed and often disappointed at the responses I receive when I challenge critics to offerviable alternatives to the status quo; one that considers all stakeholders.

The doers are few and the critics are many.

The man in the arena (the few) must invite the critics (the many) into the arena. Otherwise, humanity will do no better than keeping the lions at bay.


September 7, 2010 @ 5:43 am

Well there’s floodin’ down in Texas / All of the telephone lines are down / And I’ve been tryin’ to call my baby …Hermine is blowing into town. Natural disaster followed by mudslides, the man made disasters. The lions didn’t level the forest. Fixed bayonets are reality. Broken towns and bailouts are an illusion. The romantics are all fighting and failing first in the line of duty. Love is a battlefield. Hello mudder-hello fodder, here I am at Camp Bliss. It’s going to hit like a canonball at jet speed. File a complaint with X Corp.

Back to basics

While away, Sam rekindled his romantic relationship with Lila Cheney for a time. Sam couldn’t find peace with his life, so he was asked by Storm to join her X-Treme X-Men, a group of X-Men operating outside of Professor X’s leadership. For a time, he even was partnered with his old friend Wolverine during an adventure where they pursued long time X-Man foe William Stryker. Sam also found himself having a reunion of sorts with former teammates Sunspot and Magma. He and his teammates rejoined the central X-Men, after the events of Planet X. Sam is injured on a mission and once again decided to break for some peace. He uses the time to work on his own farm, which he had bought with his X-Corporation paychecks. While on the farm, Sam found himself teaming up again with Cable and reformed X-Force against the threat of the Skornn.

They wrecked the farms to put up a wreck of a town. Sell your daughter on craigslist as a microserf. I need to go finish wrecking a corporation and drinking a pot of coffee on this end. You’ll just see the results. Keep it real and real good if you can. It’s rough but it’s still justice.


September 7, 2010 @ 6:01 am

Claire and Luna try to restore order after their grandmother’s special marigold powder meant to help the miserable Luna enjoy her stay at summer camp goes missing in Witch …Way is up here. I got volunteer marigolds this year. Real drought resistant and hardy boys and girls. From grandmothers flower bed things keep growing up. Then there are those who want to make you throw up. Do us a favor, save us time and quit breathing before we do it for you. We’re doing it for free. It can get expensive.


September 7, 2010 @ 6:18 am

Freedom Force started out as an incarnation of the terrorist organization the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. When mutant and human relationships worsened, the team’s leader Mystique decided that it had become too dangerous for them to continue their current path. She offered the services of the Brotherhood to Valerie Cooper, a United States National Security Advisor in exchange for full pardons.

Dom and the Dons were eliminated and Free Force controls space & skynet and the Mercury Mission continues in spite of all dangers. Press the trigger and blow the press up. It’s losing lots of dough anyway and who needs bread lines? A barrel of fun is worth ten of ink according to Cooper. I can hear the fighter planes.


September 7, 2010 @ 6:30 am

Fraud by numbers. The losses tell you all you need to know. If you have an authorization and a need to know, we’ll let you know. Print your own obits for all I care! Turn the building into a mosque and pray at the Pentagon. I got a plane to catch. Arlington or bust.


September 9, 2010 @ 5:51 am

The scope of the problem is big. That’s reality. I wanted to go bird shooting this morning. I guess I’ll have to do some trapping instead. See what turns up in the bay oh net. Planning some funerals. People are burning books. Ketchup on my blue jeans, just burned my hand so it ain’t easy. I guess the illusion is your tools are theirs for the taking. That leads to disillusion. They didn’t put up the school is open, watch for children signs this year. All kinds of watch for bikers signs popping up. Drink less pop and more beer. The bikers are on their own. The kids have us watching. Watch for no trespassing signs troopers.


September 9, 2010 @ 6:04 am

Let’s roll with Hells Bells. They’ll need lots of shovels to get you off the road and put you in the hole.
I got holes to dig and you guys can fill them in later. What are you riding, a shovelhead? I got a Ram and I’ll ram you, then have OGD with GOD.


September 12, 2010 @ 6:56 pm

TEHRAN, Iran – After a power struggle within Iran’s conservative leadership put her freedom in doubt, an American woman arrested more than a year ago along the Iraq border is on the verge of heading home. Her two companions, however, could be on their way to spy trials.

The hikers aren’t ours. You would never find ours, so you have the wrong people as usual to go along with your wrong ideas of what being a human being means. This takes trials and errors to a whole new level. Use does it blend logic. Yours are simple to find. Waste time. Watch for hikers, school is open. School somehow made Iranians stupid, like some Americans. Go figure. They thought a Newsweek reporter was a spy. The losses disprove that theory. Don’t get lost in Iran I guess. You’ll be missing among the other lost causes. Ever hear of justice?


September 12, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

For Sunday recreational reading the Iranians have the prisoners reading Mein Kampf. Rise of the no point people and in toleration we trust. I’ve done some bad stuff and I’m prepared to do much worse, for better or worse. It’s going to get ugly. Hell it’s already ugly. Next they’ll determine we’re too dangerous to be allowed to live. We’ll smash your windows out, break your mirrors and burn your books. That’s just for openers. We can’t be friends unless you believe the worst of us. It can always get worse! Reality is better leave go and collect 200 thoughts. Damn despots.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Homeland security: Ceding the high ground

September 16, 2010 @ 12:23 am

[…] As I listened to her I thought, again, about what Art Botterell had written in response to my September 2 post: In our ambition we’ve defined Homeland Security so broadly as to make it for all practical […]


September 16, 2010 @ 11:29 am

Police substations would make sense at a hospitals. Of course guarding a mall is a greater duty for some. Certify him. Unfortunate situation in Baltimore.


September 18, 2010 @ 5:28 am

Make them make sign of cross before boarding jets. That’s reality. We’re all signed up Rangers. Keep scanning new horizons.

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