I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ate well, drank well, and most importantly, spent time with family and dear friends. On a personal note, given the focus on the TSA this past week, I found it somewhat amusing that a TSA employee was a part of my own Thanksgiving dinner experience.
In terms of homeland security, we should all give thanks to those who protect us everyday. At the top of the homeland security enterprise pyramid, obviously, are all the private citizens of this nation who are the true first preventers and responders. Then the professionals (first responders, law enforcement, DHS workers, intelligence employees, and military personnel who risk their lives to protect us everyday), politically appointed leaders, and everyone else who play vital roles in this effort.
Given the constant focus on terrorist threats and other risks, today might be a good time to get a slightly different perspective. Though the threats we face are real and while our economic problems continue, is it possible that perhaps we miss a bigger truth: that we still maintain a position of unparalleled strength in the world.
I will let Harvard professor Stephen Walt explain:
Although we are constantly bombarded with alarmist reports about grave dangers facing the nation from outside, the United States remains remarkably secure compared with other states. The U.S. economy is still the world’s largest and most diverse, despite its recent woes, and it is still more than twice as large as the number 2 and number 3 economic powers (China and Japan). We spend more on national security than the rest of the world put together, are the only state with global power projection capabilities, and have the world’s most sophisticated nuclear arsenal. Many of the world’s significant military powers are our allies, so our actual lead is even greater. There are no major powers near to our shores, and we are insulated from many global problems by two enormous oceanic moats.
The United States does face a modest problem from terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, but that is due in good part to our own ill-advised meddling in the Middle East and elsewhere. And assuming it never acquires a nuclear weapon (which we can prevent by working with others to enhance nuclear security around the world), Al Qaeda is not an existential threat to our prosperity or way of life. Even if all their thwarted plots had succeeded–and I’m very glad they didn’t–the damage would pale in comparison to the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Indeed, if history is any guide, international terrorism at its worst poses less threat to American life than auto accidents, nut allergies, or falling in a bathtub.
In short, although perfect security is beyond anyone’s grasp, the United States is as secure as any state could ever expect to be.
As worrisome as the security situation can appear sometimes, perhaps we can be thankful that things are not always as bad as they seem.