Wednesday, November 30, 2005

National Will for National Security

In my own view, we made a huge mistake in our response to the events of 9/11 and missed a golden opportunity to morally and emotionally prepare ourselves as a nation for such events. Certainly there needed to be a determined response to the actual events, but the events were blown completely out of proportion. I offer the concept of "National Will", a determination to persevere no matter what and to refuse to allow any events, no matter how heinous to deter us from moving on in the face of all adversity and doing so it a manner that is a moral example for the rest of the world.

National Will is simultaneously a way to steel ourselves to potential adversity and also to act as a deterrent to any attempts to divert us from the path of progress. If real or potential enemies fully realize that we will be undeterred no matter what, they cease to have an incentive to pursue attacks such as occurred on 9/11. And even if they do pursue such attacks, they will by definition fail to deter us from our commitment to National Will.

As we now know, the events of 9/11 did not simply happen out of the blue and were brewing for some time and there were plenty of warning signs along the way. Law enforcement and even limited military action were appropriate at any number of points along the way and should have been pursued with more vigor. Yes, the Clinton administration should have been more vigilant and aggressive, but the Republicans should have been more sensitive to the threats of terrorism and not been wasting so much energy pursuing misguided efforts such as National Missile Defense. Law enforcement and limited military response to the events of 9/11 were still warranted. But this all out "war on terror" (or "global war on terror" or "war on global terror" or "war on terror with a global reach") and the "axis of evil" and all of that was simply not warranted. The exaggerated response to the events of 9/11 did in fact occur, and it occurred because we had not adopted and committed ourselves to the concept of "National Will".

A key aspect of National Will is that we completely refrain from public hand-wringing when any events occur. Call it a variation of the Theodore Roosevelt "Speak softly and carry a big stick" philosophy. Grounding the national air transportation network and taking on a bunker mentality were *huge* mistakes. I was in Washington, D.C., sitting in a Senate hearing at 10:00 a.m. on 9/11, and the chairman of the Senate BankingCommittee (Democratic Senator Paul Sarbannes)  in fact started the hearing, saying "We're not going to let these people shut us down", the *only* heroic act I know of by *any* national public official that occurred on that day, or any of the days after that. Granted, there were a few other Senators that attended the hearing, both Republican and Democrat, but it was that act of leadership that stood out. That was a perfect example of National Will on his part, and he got absolutely *zero* support for it from any of our other "leaders". The first witness at that hearing spoke for about 15 minutes until a Capital Police officer came in and said we all had to leave. Sigh. Oh Well. But... we did in fact have 15 minutes of National Will, and let me tell you, it was great. Unfortunately, we haven't had even one minute of it ever since.

Yes, we should have engaged in significant military operations in Afghanistan and maybe elsewhere, but silently and immediately and with the element of surprise so that the perpetrators, planners, and leaders behind the events really could be dealt with effectively. But all the public hand-wringing and the ramp up of the massive "war on terror" were *huge* mistakes and damaged our ability to wage National Will.

To put it simply, if you want national security, the first and biggest step has to be th unequivocal adoption and commitment to National Will. It gives some context and foundation for everything else.

-- Jack Krupansky


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