Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 10, 2015

September 10 Thinking

Filed under: Resilience,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 10, 2015

When someone is accused of “September 10 thinking” it is usually meant to suggest attitudes that under-estimate the terrorist threat. Before September 11 we understood terrorism mostly as a matter of criminal investigation and prosecution.  After September 11, the critique strongly implies, any clear-thinking person must recognize that terrorism requires waging war to make peace.

On this tenth day of September we have experienced fourteen years of war. Thousands have been killed in the crossfire. Millions have been displaced.  There has been a militarization of domestic governance fraught with unintended consequences. Has there been a coarsening of American culture?  Perpetual war has a reputation for producing this outcome.  But Americans can be proudly rough-hewn.  Perhaps this is an effect with deeper cause.

In any case, I perceive very little prospect for peace.  If anything the terrorist threat to the United States – and many others – seems more pronounced, even more complicated than fourteen years ago.

Since 9-11 there has not been a successful “strategic” attack on the United States. Several attempts have been preempted by a combination of effective intelligence, policing, criminal prosecution, and military operations. Several mostly free-lance terrorist operations have been carried out, but the damage done pales in contrast to US mass-murders perpetrated by non-terrorists.

This is not to deny the continuing – perhaps increasing – terrorist threat.  We have seen in London, Madrid, Paris, and elsewhere what is possible.  Those we call terrorists do not obscure their ambitions.

The cause of current threats is complicated. It is not a straight line from American military operations to the rise of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But this is one of several converging lines. Our failure to shape a more inclusive and stable post-occupation in Iraq is another of these lines.  We share with many others the failure to avert Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe. There are even more twists and knots and weird webs, not all of which can be traced to an American source. It is, however, often impossible to distinguish our lines from these others.

It was never a binary: war-fighting or policing. It has always been much more complicated.  Most police officers and military personnel are quick to agree that deadly force is best-used only when better options have proven ineffective.

But we have given the vast majority of our attention and resources to these two counter-terrorism tools.  While we can commend certain CT competencies, our current strategic situation suggests other investments are needed.

If you are expecting a comprehensive answer from me, don’t hold your breath.  But I will highlight three issues beyond fighting and prosecuting which I perceive need sustained attention if we are to be in a better place fourteen years from now.

Demographic density – There are twice as many of us as in 1965. There will be even more of us.  We are coming together closer in cities.  We are interacting more and more through communications, commerce, and culture.  The simple mathematical likelihood of conflict increases as our interactions proliferate.  If predicted shortages of water and food unfold, it could be an especially ugly century.

Proximate diversity – Conflict often arises over real or perceived differences.  What is interesting at a distance may be irritating close at hand.  What seems reasonable to me, strikes you as crazy. Economic inequality, while perpetual, was once less obvious. Until 200 years ago many of our cultural differences were buffered by various sorts of distance. Many physical, temporal, and cultural aspects of distance are experiencing compression (see supra).  This compression can encourage intentional expressions of differentiation. Such expressions escalate proximate differences that might be insignificant at a distance. One person’s creative cosmopolitanism is another’s satanic confusion.

Interdependent networks—I most often use these words to reference the electrical grids, telecommunications networks, and supply chains that facilitate and sustain the two prior issues.  If these fail, preexisting tensions may escalate. But in this context the challenge – and opportunities – of interdependence also extend to social, economic, and political networks.  Separation is increasingly difficult and usually delusional.  Relationships across various divides are real and can be constructive, even affectionate. But whatever the affect, the connections are increasingly fundamental, spreading good and bad with equal alacrity.

These are issues that seem innately to prompt either-or, yes-no, right-wrong reactions. But I worry it is precisely this analytic predisposition that threatens mutual annihilation.

Hegel used a German word that Marx allowed to be translated into English as suggesting the old way is destroyed to make way for the new. But the original word — Aufheben — can, depending on context, mean destroy or transcend or retrieve or renew. The implication, at least for me, is how prior meaning can be constructively adapted to present reality. Or how contending worldviews can be resolved. Or how thesis and antithesis might constructively coexist. Can we develop the interpersonal skills and social systems to deploy contending energies for the common good?


A program that has roots in traditional counter-terrorism, but is trying to stretch into the issues noted above is outlined in a September 9 story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

September 10, 2015 @ 5:47 am

WOW! Fourteen [14] years and still wondering why we (U.S.) don’t really get it.

First, September 11th part of a continuum and a logical progression at that. I personally played exercises where airplanes seized by terrorists turned into guided bombs.

And 20th Century much more about terrorism, however defined, than most national security experts knew.

I myself was almost totally ignorant of the Islamic world including its religious sects and beliefs before 9/11/01!

Despite reading over 100 books on that world since 9/11/01 I still remain fundamentally ignorant on that world.
Perhaps reading THE LOOMING TOWER and THE AGE OF SACRED TERROR after 9/11/01 provided some context.

FEMA in its charter document was assigned the CONSEQUENCES OF TERRORISM role but I had to post-retirement dig out documentary evidence [compiled by a friend Dr. Thomas
Baldwin. PhD, into an chronology and posted on the FEMA/FAS page, but still not assessed for its implications. Yes, both the 1993 WTC; Murrah Bldg. (1995); and 9/11/01 were declared Presidential disasters but all were highly geographically limited events.

In fact widescale and largescale domestic events should have been FEMA’s speciality but since a captive of its charter and always afraid of losing authority as opposed to strengthening it FEMA even today still not part of a formal domestic crisis management and response system or domestic chain of command.

FEMA like many other organizations believes that money not time and preparedness will save people and property from the consequences of disaster.

Since this blog was created I have tried to inform [probably failed more than accomplished] the interested public as to what must be done. Yet most don;t get the basic fact that in the respites between fuu-bore efforts at response and recovery we all must work even harder and learn from our mistakes.

What exactly did we learn from 9/11/01 and Hurricane Katrina? Were these events MOMs [maximum of maximums?] or just part of an expected continuum?

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 10, 2015 @ 5:59 am

If the STATES want to be full partners in FEDERALISM time to wake up and become expert on that subject. The STATES are somewhat skilled in maintaining control, corrupt control IMO, over some of the sinews of FEDERALISM, voting for example even for federal offices.

And the legal profession needs to grow up and adopt federal standards for at least its own lawyers on a Code of Professional Responsibility.

And technical disciplines that are essential to our survival must be subjected to full liability for their negligence and gross negligence, and misfeasance, malfeasance, and non-feasance.

And all governmental units involved in regulation must have those regulators mandated to ensure to the maximum possible resilience and surviveability of their regulated entities to the extent involved with protection of the public and property.

We cannot continue to be so stupid and corrupt and expect to escape MALTHUS, e.g. or other events [asteroid perhaps?]!

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 10, 2015 @ 6:03 am

What has been accomplished by the QHSR’s?

What new ideas have come out of the 2016 Presidential campaign so far?

What kind of nation do we want to be in the year 2100?

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 10, 2015 @ 6:08 am

Questions for all future Presidential debates!




Pingback by Prepper News Watch for September 10, 2015 | The Preparedness Podcast

September 10, 2015 @ 11:45 am

[…] September 10 Thinking […]

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 11, 2015 @ 5:55 am

Mr. Tingus: A comment you have posted to this thread is “pending”. The blog host’s spam filter initially intercepted it. I have retrieved it from the spam file. But I need to think-on some of your language, accusations and rhetoric before either editing or allowing the original comment to appear. I need to focus on some other issues right now and am uncertain when I will be able to return to this issue. I will be offline much of today.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 11, 2015 @ 9:21 am

ALL: You might find the post AND thread on migrant situation of interest on the Sic Semper Tyrannis blog today.

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