Thursday, August 19, 2004

Security - National, Personal, and Political

Should your next check-in look like this?

Wednesday, my wife had to fly on business, and so (very, very) early that morning, I drove her to the airport, while my daughter slept in the car seat. My wife was also sleeping as I drove us through those pre-dawn hours, so as we approached the airport, I was thinking to myself about the changes in things since 9/11.

There were the expected warning signs, that all vehicles were subject to search, that unattended cars or trucks would be immediately towed, and there were a lot of security guards keeping the traffic flowing. But I noticed that crowds of people were standing outside the terminal entrances; a car with a bomb, or even a few gun-toting villains could easily kill a lot of people. I noticed the fences to the tarmac were just simple chain-link fences, with no ditches or barriers to keep anyone from just crashing the gate, or simply cutting the links with a bolt-cutter. There were not even cameras along the perimeter. Access to baggage, fuel trucks, even the planes themselves appeared to be absurdly simple.

After dropping my wife off for her flight, I drove my daughter back across town to her daycare, and I though about how little real security had changed. It's not difficult to gain access to water reservoirs, to poisons of myriad varieties and potencies, and even after 9/11, most security improvements are little more than additional uniforms and public announcements. But the fears are ill-founded, because of a basic point of comprehension about the real risk of Terrorism, which Senator Kerry appears to hope the voters will not realize: The risk is determined by where the fight happens, and by who is involved, and by who has the initiative.

In his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in Boston, John Kerry claimed it was unacceptable for 95% of the cargo ships to enter without being stopped and searched, suggesting that each and every ship had to be searched in order to be safe. At first glance, that sounds ominous. After all, 7500 foreign ships come into U.S. ports each year, with approximately 7.8 million containers (each about the size of the trailer on a tractor-trailer truck). Even if every Coast Guard and Customs agent were to inspect these containers and ships full-time, they could only inspect about 20% of the ships which come in. Worse, Kerry's inspection plan does not even address all the potential risks posed by ships. A terrorist could shut down a major port for months, simply by sinking a ship in one of the many narrow channels they must travel to reach the port.

But Kerry is also wrong about the inspection numbers. Richard Bonner, the DHS Commissioner for Customs and Border Protection, explains that "100% of the containers identified as having potential terrorist risk by our targeting efforts are screened through xray and for radiation either abroad or upon arrival in the United States." (testimony to Congress, 3/24/02) Bonner also explained the improvements in processes, tools, and cooperation to get the job done. Basically, the professionals who have already considered this problem for years, have found ways to determine which ships represent risk, and to check out the ships without lengthy delays and exhaustive searches. They also pre-empt threats from attacks on the ships themselves, and in controlling access to the information about ship movements. These improvements have almost all happened while Bush has been President, so naturally Kerry has no intention of acknowledging them.

Still, Kerry tells everyone how he wants to fight terror; "Not only a strong military, but renewed alliances, vigorous law enforcement, reliable intelligence, and unremitting effort to shut down the flow of terrorist funds. " OK, let's look at those ideas.

Senator Kerry and President Bush have made clear how they stand on these points:

"Renewed Alliances" - In addition to the United States, the following nations have contributed military forces to the effort in Iraq: Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Rep, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Ukraine. Not included in that tally is Spain, which withdrew its troops from Iraq.
The Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras also removed their troops. The Kingdom of Tonga did, however, deploy 45 Royal Marines in early July to Iraq. With the withdrawal of the Philippines Troops, there are 31 countries militarily participating in the coalition at this time.

The alliances Kerry feels we should renew, apparently, are to France and Germany and Russia and China, most of whom appear to have supported Saddam instead of America, because politicians from those nations took bribes from him. For some reason, Kerry has never criticized these nations for this graft, this brutal disregard for the plight of starving Iraqis.

Kerry's devotion to things European is also made apparent, by his opposition to moving troops out of West-Central Europe. Kerry wants all the troops to stay in Europe, in order to fight in South Korea and other parts of Asia if necessary, though he did not explain why troops moving closer to Asia would make this harder. Perhaps Kerry's secret allies have warned of a potential vampire uprising, or a werewolf insurgency in the region. Or, Kerry is so far behind in his security briefings, that he is unaware that the Cold War is over.

"Vigorous Law Enforcement" - this phrase cuts to the chase of the difference between the Bush and Kerry Doctrines on Terrorism. Bush considers terrorist attacks to be acts of war against America and her people, and accordingly acts to strike the terrorists down, to prevent future attacks. Kerry wants the terrorists arrested and put on trial, which by our standards means Miranda rights, taxpayer-funded legal counsel for the terrorists, and of course the distinct possibility of acquittal on technicalities. I leave the reader to decide which course is more sound, or even sane.

"Reliable Intelligence" - This sounds great. We all want to know what's going on in our enemies' minds, and certainly we can all agree that 9/11 showed we were not expecting what happened. But what has been done to make our Intelligence better? President Bush set up the Department of Homeland Security, pushed through the PATRIOT Act (which, by the way, was not passed by Congress to reduce Civil Rights, but to coordinate information, and allow terrorists to be caught with the same tools already used to catch drug smugglers and child predators) , increased funding for Intelligence and National Security, and is enacting most of the measures recommended by the 9/11 Commission. In comparison, John Kerry voted to reduce Intelligence spending (even when other leading Democrats opposed his position), has failed to attend even a quarter of the Senate Intelligence Committee's public meetings, and has a record of voting against essential defense needs.

"Unremitting Effort to Shut Down the Flow of Terrorist Funds" - Well,that sounds good, but how do you make that happen? In September, 2001, President Bush announced that the assets of 27 individuals and organizations had been frozen. And the government has been actively pursuing the funding for terrorists for almost three years now. But beyond that, the question of just how to stop money flowing to terrorists has been around for quite awhile. The groups supplying funds are often small, or enjoy protection, such as the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). Perhaps Kerry plans to pull the United States out of the UN? If not, one must doubt his sincerity in claiming his efforts really are 'unremitting'.

In the case of the 9/11 attacks, money was traced back to Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden pretty quickly, which was one reason the US moved first against the Taliban. It bears mentioning, as well, that Saddam Hussein was a major funding provider for a number of terrorist groups; his removal has caused a cash shortage in the world of the Jihadists. But of course, Kerry wants us to believe it was wrong to go to war in Iraq, yet he will himself be 'unremitting' in his pursuit of terrorists - has the Senator forgotten his schoolboy lessons in Logic? Ah, he must have been in Cambodia at that time.

John Kerry's plans, promises, and history are in sharp conflict with one another. It is, therefore, unreasonable to believe that a Kerry Presidency would be productive or successful in the War on Terror. If John Kerry were President, eventually a trip to an airport would take even longer, be more stressful and require more profiling, and would feature a lot more men outfitted like the ones in the picture above this article.

As unpleasant as it is, to send young men into harm's way in Afghanistan and Iraq, President Bush has understood that to defeat the enemy, you must strike where it lives. And yes, we are dealing with all our enemies, as we need to do. The proof of that lies in the fact that I can still take my wife to and from the airport, get my daughter to and from the daycare, and drive to and from work, all in the same day, and in the confidence that my government is protecting us as well as is humanly possible, by fighting the enemy in places like Najaf, instead of Houston.

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