On the bright, beautiful morning of September 11, 2001, I was tasked with remerchandising the cold beer at a drug store in Henderson, Nevada. The job, needless to say, did not go the way I thought it would. That morning I was at least nominally in charge of a crew of 4 gentlemen drawn from the other major wholesalers in Southern Nevada. On a normal day, the chatty group was boisterous; a constant stream of complaints and “suggestions” about the set that I designed (usually “suggesting” where I might place it), chit-chat about family, rants about football, and stories told by resident historian Frank filled the air.
On this day there were no conversations about beer, no ribbing about sales or football. The work was done with a quick and barely concealed anger; the only discussions were over whether the bombs we dropped on Afghanistan would be nuclear or conventional. On that day and the days after, America was focused and united; we knew what our shared task was. We would hunt done those who attacked us, and relentlessly work to secure our nation against any such attack in the future. It might be that answers come easier when the bullets are still flying, because September of 2001 seems to be the last time that our shared task was so straightforward.
(Publisher’s Note: Don’t let your small kids read this…M.C.)
Maybe the issue is too serious for the comparison, but I can’t help thinking of Santa Claus when the subject of Wikileaks is raised. I know; Christmas right? I never have been serious enough for the news. But hey, if the battle of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is really about whether we Americans are mature enough to take communal showers, then Wikileaks is really about whether it is good and proper to tell your kids the Santa Claus story.
The issues relating to the theft and release of millions of secret documents have dominated news cycles for months now. Should governments have secrets, what limits exist on freedom of the press, and what defines national security? I would argue that another issue, lying just below the surface, is fueling this story. Is the United States government ours, or is it some outside entity bent on malevolent control? If this is still the government of we the people, then only a hypocrite would suggest it not be permitted secrecy. In fact, it is my argument that many who line up now to cheer the perpetrators of this theft are indeed hypocrites.
Most of America knows what the Miranda rights are, we hear them every time we watch a police procedural show on television. The product of a 1960′s Supreme Court case, Miranda vs. Arizona, it mandates that a suspect be told his or her rights before an interrogation, lest the results of that interrogation be inadmissible in court. The question in today’s headlines is whether this should be extended to terrorist suspects, and whether the extension of such rights is dangerous to America.
I have written many times of my personal beliefs on this matter; liberty and principle don’t matter when they are thrown aside in times of danger. Patrick Henry called us to this ethic when he decried, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” But neither do I desire to be overly critical of divergent opinion; citizens have the right to call for the safety of their families. What then, are we to make of the recent controversies surrounding the “wannabe-bomber” and the “underwear-bomber”?
The great American author, Tom Clancy, noted in the epilogue to The Sum Of All Fears that it was not probable that any free democracy could prevent a terrorist event using weapons of mass destruction. Since 9/11, most of the nation’s best analysts, through interviews on television or in print, have repeatedly stated that another major attack is a near inevitability. This friends, leads us to the nature of terrorism; the ability of a small force able to bend a larger force to its will through intimidation. But the United States hasn’t changed in response to the events of 9/11, have we?
Clancy made it a point to reference the free democracy in his note. Liberty, after all, does not blend well with a police state. For decades the Red Chinese, and the Soviets, Nazis, and Czarists before them, controlled the ethnic and religious divisions that existed in their nations. It is not coincidental that bloodshed began anew in the Balkans when Yugoslavia was dissolved; the tensions of Serb and Croat had been sublimated to the will of world socialism. Iraq as well, showed the results of tyranny on the profession of terror; Hussein allowed no jihad in his country, and was utterly without limits in his ability to enforce his will. It took a foreign power to uncork the terrorist potential in that nation.
With the announcement last week of the United State’s new nuclear posture, and the opening this week of the 47 nation nuclear weapons summit, President Obama has opened the door to an old debate; nuclear weapons and national security. In addition, the Senate will now consider the ratification of the arms control treaty agreed to by President Obama and his Russian counterpart, President Medvedev. All three of these steps have opened the door for fresh criticism of the President and his policies by the opposition Republican party.
The question for us; what should everyday Americans look for when reading or listening to news reports on strategic national security? What separates spin and political branding from honest reporting? The steps for quick analysis of what our government is doing are straightforward; understand the threats, grasp the basic responses to those threats, and compare the results to the specific policies adopted by the Administration. A short review is available after the jump.