Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 11, 2016


Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on February 11, 2016

This post is to announce my departure.

For over seven years I have shared these screens with a wide range of people posting and commenting.  I have certainly benefited and hope to have returned the favor.

Three issues have converged to move me along.

First, Homeland Security has continued to so persistently fracture that I find it more difficult than ever to discuss it as anything but a rather arbitrary collection of functions.  It is a Rube Goldberg construction incorporating several individual bits performing practical services.  But as a whole, it seems to me less and less strategically — or conceptually — coherent.  This is frustrating to me and I don’t perceive my contribution at HLSWatch is helping close the gaps.  Perhaps the opposite.

Second, the coarsening of public discourse, our readiness to denigrate one another, and the emergence of anger as a recurring default is deeply distressing.  Various Vulgarian tribes are fighting over the remnants of the Republic.  A predilection for attack, rather than any serious attempt to understand, is epidemic. At HLSWatch I have failed to craft effective alternatives or even a meaningful defense. Both on the blog and in bilateral communications about terrorism, immigration, refugees, fear, and if or how to fight there is an explosion of stubborn factionalism that I find inherently self-destructive, probably for our polity… certainly for me.

Third — and thankfully — other aspects of my life are going rather well. I find that in other venues it is still possible to speak softly, listen carefully, work together to apprehend problems and opportunities, experiment with creative interventions, be kind to one another, and at the end of the day see that progress is often being made, even if many of us remain uncertain or disagree.  I want to focus more on where my investments generate positive returns, rather than digging a deeper deficit.


But you will not be surprised that as a parting “gift”, I  leave you with one more  potentially specious classical analogy.  Below is a passage from the Third Book of Thucydides “Peloponnesian War“.  Many traditional translations take the classical Greek word stasis and give us “revolution” or “civil strife” or something similar.  But I perceive Thucydides was quite intentional to signal “standing still” or even “locked in place”.  He describes a mutually reinforcing face-off between two roughly equal sides within several city-states, neither side typically willing to grant the other moral equivalence, each insistent on its moral superiority.

The sufferings which stasis entailed upon the cities were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur, as long as the nature of mankind remains the same; though in a severer or milder form, and varying in their symptoms, according to the variety of the particular cases. In peace and prosperity states and individuals have better sentiments, because they do not find themselves suddenly confronted with imperious necessities; but war takes away the easy supply of daily wants, and so proves a rough master, that brings most men’s characters to a level with their fortunes.

Stasis thus emerged in city to city, and the places where it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before carried to still greater excess the refining of their inventions, as manifested in the cunning of their conspiracies and the atrocity of their reprisals.

Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence, became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defense.

The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. To forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended, until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations… were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any ethical (or religious) sanction than upon complicity in crime.

The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation. Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence. Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first.

This ancient description of a society ripped-asunder seems entirely too familiar for my comfort.  The challenge — at least for me — presented by such extremes (and extremists) is to find where it is possible to productively focus any remaining constructive resources.  There are now, I perceive, other more fertile places.

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Comment by claire rubin

February 11, 2016 @ 6:44 am

Thanks for your years of insights and observations.
We will miss you.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 11, 2016 @ 7:57 am

Many many thanks Phil for your many blog contributions. DHS has missed on most of the big policy issues that were the reasons for its formation IMO. Personally I would shut down the blog which has run since December 2005. There are other forums.

I have predicted that the 2016 Presidential election will result in little change but now have one exception. The exception is whether my 1992 prediction was that Ross Perot’s performance kicked off a 30-40 year struggle for realignment of the parties in the USA. NO MENTION OF POLITICAl parties in the CONSTITUTION.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 11, 2016 @ 8:13 am

We may well see that neither political party survives this Presidential election, perhaps the winner survives for a short time. And I have predicted on other blogs that Bloomberg will join the race.

Many like me hoped that President Obama might be a healer not a divider. Time will tell that scoreboard.

I have also predicted that certain Homeland Security events might will cause our system of government to fall. A NUDET in a major American city for example.

And the Congress needs to reform its Committees.

I have suggested in a variety of forums that only the 300 coastal counties [out of 4100] should have the federal government involved in direct sales of insurance against the PERIL OF FLOOD. This would be accomplished over a 10 year runoff for insurance by the feds in riverine/inland flooding.

And I now announce that anyone who has been involved in Florida politics for the last two decades, since Hurricane Andrew in August 1992 making landfall, needs to understand that the Florida catastrophe hurricane insurance fund is a constructive fraud on the citizens and residents of the State
of Florida.

And the three Republican candidates still racing for the Presidency who have some personal knowledge of Cuban politics and immigration to the United States need to announce their Cuban Plans post-Castro brothers. Personally I would argue for statehood this century for Cuba.

As for me I have asked Phil and others as to whether my participation is helpful or hurtful for HS and EM on the blog and while receiving some support stay or go will not diminish my efforts elsewhere [largely directed to helping younger researchers on HS and EM policy and issues]. So with my efforts rather meager will march here on as long as the forum continues.

Comment by A Concerned Citizen

February 11, 2016 @ 9:07 pm

Thank you Mr. Palin!

Your contributions have been far too many to even reference and given your obvious intellect, your sincere concern for fellow man and your sensitivity as well as patience conveyed towards the various perspectives of readers wiling to share their views either in agreement or differing in opinion has been appreciated by all and while like William, maybe consideration in shutting down the blog may be worthy, given the seriousness and the divide here on ‘Main Street USA” and within our two partisan and major political parties w/little regard for Constitution and classified materials for instance w/little ramification for those with personal agenda, your departure and the possible shutting down of this blog at a time when your participation is very much needed will be dearly missed….

God Bless you and all the readers and to all those who sincerely have concern about our beloved Republic now so divided yet history tells us that this is not the first time our nation has been divided and as Americans who love our country and neighbor, We will endure despite those who seek our demise —

Best Wishes to you Sir,

A Concerned Citizen

Comment by Donald Quixote

February 12, 2016 @ 11:05 am

Mr. Palin:

I have been expecting and fearing this decision for some time now. Unfortunately, the writing has been on the wall and the blog. I surely understand your hopes and frustrations. Although we should be challenging strategies, polices, plans, ideas and positions, it should be in a manner to enhance homeland security (whatever it may be).

Thank you for your dedication to the cause. The fight was noble.

Good luck and Godspeed.

Comment by Jeff Kaliner

February 13, 2016 @ 3:26 pm

Phil –

As it occurs to me, your humanity has been the greatest gift you have given to the readers of this blog.

Thank you for the fine example.

Jeff Kaliner

Comment by Dan O'Connor

February 17, 2016 @ 4:14 pm

Godspeed Phil

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 23, 2016 @ 3:18 am

Phil! How many civil agencies use and impact the Supply Chain for PREPAREDNESS?

Is Energy considered part of the SUPPLY CHAIN?

Comment by Philip J. Palin

February 23, 2016 @ 3:55 pm


I could be glib and answer “all”, given a broad definition of preparedness and supply chain. But I expect you have something more targeted in mind… especially regarding your own definition of preparedness? Give me a bit more context please.

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