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.

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