Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 2, 2012

Starting out the New Year with hopes of peace

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on January 2, 2012

Nicholas Burns, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, poses a great question for the start of the New Year:

“Is the word “peace’’ disappearing from our national conversation?”

To explain:

Armies of talking heads, bloggers, and op-ed opinionators assault us daily on every subject . . . but rarely on peace. When was the last time we heard a national leader of either party, especially one running for president, put the goal of peace at the center of a political platform or place it among our highest national aspirations?

Lamenting the absence of discussion about peace by current candidates for the Republican nomination and the lack of focus by President Obama, Burns shares what he considers among the best of presidential calls for peace:

In perhaps the most eloquent evocation of peace by an American president, John F. Kennedy described it this way to students at American University in 1963: “Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children . . . not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.’’

Taking a step back, our reaction to 9/11 and the meaning of the term “homeland security” itself can be a bit jarring:

Contrast FDR and Truman’s sheer optimism in launching the United Nations and Marshall Plan after World War II with the principal monuments we have built since 9/11: the Department of Homeland Security and its legions of security personnel at airports. We now deploy the words “defense,’’ “protect,’’ and “security’’ to illustrate the national purpose. Is this sufficient? Peace is often unattainable, but has the 9/11 decade made us so fearful that we no longer believe it can be the guiding star that makes us a better nation.”

That last question is likely the most important. It is popular in homeland security-related fields to throw around terms such as “resilience,” “need to share,” and “whole of _________ (insert term-of-the-moment here).” These speak to concepts of inclusion and confidence.  However, the policy and funding choices tell a different story–Citizen Corps and other related concepts are underfunded and likely soon to lose all support, while a pilot project involving radiation detectors ringing the New York City metropolitan area is likely to continue. The vaguest of reports are stamped “For Official Use Only” while private citizens, like those in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami, are left to determine the best source of information in the aftermath of a disaster themselves.  Basing post-disaster planning on the fact that the affected community may actually do something instead of simply waiting for instructions from authorities is an important recognition of reality, but the lack of threat information or after-action reports from previous government exercises available to the general public leads one to believe that ingrained culture and SOPs will be very hard to change.

I am hopeful yet pessimistic.  The lack of engagement with homeland security issues by the candidates is likely a negative, yet could positively allow the enterprise to mature unimpeded by political posturing.  The cuts in funding at all levels of government will lead to a degradation of capacity and capability, but could also spur creative thinking and true engagement of communities out of necessity.  But anyway one looks at it if peace is not deemed an appropriate alternative to the use of force, this year may be worse than the last.


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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 2, 2012 @ 8:55 am

Great post Arnold! America has been turned into a fearful jealous nation not celebrating its inherent advantages [comparative?] but it nightmares. Was this done to US or by US?

No real leadership in sight anywhere on the political, religious,educational, military, economic scene. Why?

My guess is that the long [over three decades] discourse on everyone should be out only for themselves and concepts like community, service, sacrifice, doing unto others as you would have them do to you, have largely disappeared from the scene.

Troubling as to our society decides to reward greed and outright theft and not reward those characteristics that are the glue of a society. Tending to its elderly and children, the sick and disabled, and pretending that luck does not enter into the success of most of US. Meaning good parents, good communities, good business practices, religious that strengthen US and don’t preach hate.

Yet we do have in the world still tigers that live also on hate and fear and intolerance and even holocaust type dreams of eliminating the other. So how this plays out only time will tell.

It’s not the Mayan Calendar for me but somehow I think that 2012 is a major world and US turning point as to whether move forward into the sunlight or reinforce the threat of a new dark age.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

January 2, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

Excellent comments Phil and great post Arnold…

Some thoughts on both and maybe I am too abstract, but here goes;

I think Bill’s comments on leadership are the tipping point of light and darkness both figuratively and literally. Something or someone has to create some turbulence.

Leadership, leadership, leadership.

Everything starts with leadership. It is overused and underutilized.

Leaders make things happen and there’s friction that comes with that. Mediocrity and controversy cannot peacefully coexist…The leadership we require today will create controversy and discomfort; otherwise we will learn that mediocrity is our expected norm and not an exception.

Politically, mediocrity and status quo go hand in hand. The Congress has devalued themselves by their behaviors in their inability to move forward. It’s ironic that the physics of magnetism are at play here…opposites do indeed attract and like fields do repel one another…With an 80%+ re election rate, is it their faults or ours?

So the democrats and republicans are more similar than dissimilar and I put forth for our examination their performance as an existential exercise in getting re-elected
instead of moving us forward.

If you were to measure effective leadership how would you do it? Is it morale, proficiency, esprit de Corps, and discipline? (USMC) The body of evidence tends to deny the observation of the aforementioned. Whatever your methodology for measurement is, even an emergent holistic one, we are no longer effectively lead, but managed, marketed to, and politically corrected, thereby effectively disabling the dissenting voice.

We are metaphorical mushrooms, kept in dark and fed manure… transparency is supposed to be enlightening, not stifling.

I believe the worst is yet to come in terms of the depths candidates will go to damage one another for victory. And what does that say about us? The debasement of values and civility has only begun.

The erosion of civil liberties and the use of “lawfare” on citizens by its “leaders” is a great cause for concern. A zero tolerance mentality has left one field and metastasized over much of government and the civil discourse. The no error, overinflated, under-producing machinations of leadership produces nothing but milquetoast response and tepid action for active, substantive change. Has that become our expectation? And if so, is there any chance of changing that position?

Perhaps I am histrionic or melodramatic, but my contempt for the current process continues to ferment…

I am curious where our gaze lies; in the setting sun, where the past lies or the morning rise, where opportunity and possibility lives. Or is it simply just charting the passage of time?

Two combining thoughts; Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely and scientia potentia est.. knowledge is power. Perhaps the thoughts of Lord Acton and Sir Francis Bacon should be more studied than not.

We must gain the knowledge of the actual instead of the messaged. It seems to me we are massaged and transmitted to simply to placate our thoughts. Hence, the two ideological poles we are told to choose from even though most are an amalgam of the middle. Is our future tied to empowerment or restraint? How does this point of view shape, define, present, and prepare a Nation to be resilient, empowered, and knowledgeable about its capabilities and enemies?

It is a difficult proposition to weigh the current situation and not lament on our setting influence and ability to adjust. I think Bill is spot on in his assessment; “My guess is that the long [over three decades] discourse on everyone should be out only for themselves and concepts like community, service, sacrifice, doing unto others as you would have them do to you, have largely disappeared from the scene.”
What disruption of our current path would enable not a return perhaps but a re evaluation of the necessity for selfless service in lieu of selfish service?
I read this blog practically every day and am always amazed by the depth of thought and degree of certitude each participant brings.

And at the same time, I do not see anyone who participates, myself included, having the desire to run for public office and address these ideas. Is it simply too devisive and painful to ponder?

It’s a shame that those with the really good ideas or at least the provocative ones are so easily dismissed…I suppose those who fund campaigns and benefit from the status quo have no desire to examine outcomes and address the myriad of challenges ahead.

Leadership… the most overused, misunderstood, and improperly executed skill in society. The holiday season of renewal and peace were more about record sales than reflection and thankfulness. It’s over now and I wonder how much good will towards men will be extended as we watch Europe, Iran, and North Korea these next few weeks. I wonder how we’ve saddled our children with a $ trillion in student loan debt, trillions more in unfunded deficiencies, and no mechanism to respond to that burden. What leader(s) who’ve presided over this could ever look themselves in the eye and say they have effectively led this Nation? Maybe they all could and that’s the essence of the problem.

I suppose it’s all a matter of expectation management. If we expect greatness and performance we must demand it. If we do not expect greatness , than we will get what we’ve sowed.

So how do you make a Nation great, safe, secure, and prosperous? One thought and one person at a time is what I’m thinking.

Happy New Year and thank you for making me think.

Comment by 'Ol Glory Upside Down In Distress

January 3, 2012 @ 8:07 am

Chris Rock as Mays Gilliam in his 2003 movie is a must watch for a story which in some degree parallels this WH “Goldman Sachs” riddled administration led by Barry Obama, a Chicago community organizer and supported by folks like “Smug smiled Pelosi” and “Mr. Barney” and their banker pals who very much represented the characters in Mays Gilliam’s recruitment into becoming President much like Barry Obama’s rise to sit with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln…

Some critics saw the movie much like most of us here on “Main Street USA” view Congress today “empty and lifeless” – a self-serving grloup of elitists who have no connection to those of us clearly becoming poverty ridden – as We the babyboomers have seen so our value considerably diminish…

Peace? The upwards pressure on oil will see $3.80 per galloon at the pump and reaching within three months to nearly $5.00 per gallon and the GDP will reflect the fact that these “beltway thieves” and a Chicago community organizer who like Mays Gilliam lack the experience to manage much of anything and especially being decisive in addressing domestic jobs and/or the “Brutes of Tehran” and the “KGB Putinites” –

What troubles me here on “Main Street USA” is that Biblical verse is not heeded. We “entrusted” folks to take oath to protect the US constitution, not tear it apart….and it is quite celar that We have much to be weary of as 2012 now evolves — Depression and War certainly looms ahead!

God Bless our beloved Republic!

Christopher Tingus
“Main Street USA”
PO Box 1612
Harwich, MA 02645 USA

Comment by Philip J. Palin

January 3, 2012 @ 8:11 am


I agree that leadership matters much. The attention, creativity and flexibility of followers also matters.

I perceive we are approaching the culmination of a fundamental economic/cultural transition that has been underway for at least forty years.

Many are still trying to retrieve an old thesis. But most have a nagging sense that, for better or worse, the past is beyond reclaiming.

No one is confident what sort of synthesis is ahead… or even our best options. Anyone who tries to lead in a new direction attracts splintered support and united opposition.

The effective leader, among other things, gives voice to hopes and fears that are otherwise vaguely felt and distract from progress. The leader then points toward a credible, compelling resolution and helps us achieve it. (A social analog to the strange attractor of meaning in Complex Adaptive Systems.)

As a nation, even as a planet, we are still so engaged in fundamental flux, I’m not sure it is yet possible for us to hear and accept even the most insightful and skilled leader.

In ancient Hebrew “peace” (shalom) was understood as an expression of wholeness. Right now the social/cultural/political reality strikes me as a random array of puzzle pieces. Perhaps, as you suggest, the best we can do is put together whatever pieces are immediately at hand.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 5, 2012 @ 8:06 am

Just finished a book by Columbia U. Prof. Eric Foner published in 1998! History of the Concept of Freedom in American History. Very interesting. Conclusion is that modern politicians talk about freedom from something like regulation and/or government and/or taxes and not freedom to do something.

Highly recommend it. Should be must reading for all in HS!

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