Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How to Secure the Homeland


When Bush created DHS, all he did was "move around the boxes," as in simply change the burecratic organization of the departments that made up DHS. That is no policy. Clearly, new policies, which involve large changes in how we think of and operate on our security (domestic analysis only), are necessary. Here they are:
  1. Creation of "Homeland Brigades" made up of fireman, police, first responders (paramedics and the like), and componenets of the National Guard. Most importantly, these Brigades will be organized locally, on the state level, regionally, and nationally, and will have actual live deployment exercises within the US to test their ability to respond. Units in surrounding states will learn to work with each other on regoinal problems, and units far from a disaster site will work on organizing a swift logistical response to a crisis that will be coordinated nationally. No more standing around with total chaos while a disaster continues, as happend in New Orleans. This will be supported with federal funding for more police, fireman, and first responders, so that all communities will be more secure, even when there is no disaster.
  2. Creation of a domestic intelligence agency dedicated to infiltrating, surveiling and eventually arresting those plotting acts of domestic terrorism. All surveilance must be done through warrants, although through a special court process. This system will not be as permissive and secretive as the current FISA courts. If the system is abused, U.S. citizens will have the right to sue over it. If the US is willing to act in its defense, it should own up to if when it gets it wrong. However, appropriate safegurads will exist to protect undercover operations.
  3. A revitalized mass transit and nationwide train system. As we learned during Rita when the evacuation of Houston bogged down, large US cities can't evacuate in a few days relying on automobiles. With a robust mass transit system in cities and a revitalized national train system, mass evacuations will have more options and more ease, especially for poor Americans without cars.
  4. The creation of a civillian coordination agency to harness the power of the average American when disaster strikes. We are a people who are willing to help out in hard times. If the government can coordiante this outpouring of support, it will help aleviate any problem. The agency will be a wing of the Homland Brigades, so it properly coordinates with the professional disaster response team. That way, DHS can use private boats, trucks, helicopters, and cargo jets to quickly leverage aid and assistance. Like a sort of Dunkirk.
  5. No more color coded terror alerts. It serves no purpose but to fear monger. If there is a credible threat, then the proper agencies will be mobilized. Anything else is counter-productive.
  6. Less secrecy. It is the terrorists that do the evil deeds and must plot in the shadows. DHS should be the response of a free society in an attempt to organize the security of its people against physical violence. No byzantine procedures to keep people off, no empowering of faceless burecrats in windowless rooms. DHS should embody the will of the people, and as such, must respect the individual people themselves.
  7. No cosmetic security. For example, at countless airports, people are asked to remove their shoes, even though the equipment that scans the shoes can't detect explosives. This is busy-body intrusiveness at its worst: it is annoying, and it doesn't do anything to help. Any security move or policy should truthfully and honestly answer the question "how does this make my life better?" And sometimes, a slight fraction of an increase in potential personal safety will not outweigh simple convenience and comfort. The logical conclusion of many TSA policies (not to beat a dead horse, but it's just easy to pick on the TSA) enacted in response to the latest potential threat is that we will all be flying naked. When you prevent people from bringing water onto an airplane and take their fingernail clippers away, the terrorists have already succeeded in terrorizing us. Don't help the terrorists inflict terror (see #5).
  8. Change immigration policy so that we actually know who is here. That can be done only in one way: the capitalist way! People pay smugglers vast sums to get them into the U.S. so they can work. We should let people buy work visas (of limited duration, from 6 mos to a year) to come to the U.S. That way, the government captures that money instead of a smuggler, and the worker will be on the books. Immigrants can travel back to their families without fear. They can participate with law enforcement without fear. They can stand up to work abuses without fear. And after a certain number of years, the visa holder can apply for more permanent status. That's much better than an amnesty. This way, a person has to pay the U.S., work in the U.S., and then they can choose to join the citizenship process if they decide to stay. This makes deportation easier to all, even the immigrant community. Now its not a case of someone coming to America at great personal risk to provide for their family. Rather it's someon who cut corners and isn't willing to pay their share. There can even be arangements between an immigrant and the government that the immigrant can pay the fee over time through their wages. An immigrant who isn't paid up won't be allowed back in. Another path of immigration, without a fee, will be open to those who are just applicants to get a green card, but the U.S. can keep quotas on that.

These are all quick and common sense solutions to change the dysfunctional polices we have. I will elaborate more on them at another time.


The Bush creation of the Department of Homeland Security has clearly been a failure. There were three great threats that our nation had to prepare for, a massive west coast earthquake, a terrorist attack in New York, and a big Hurricane in New Oreleans. There was no DHS on September 11, and besides, once the buildings fell, that was it and the destruction was over. The test came in late August of 2005, with Katrina. Bush and the current DHS failed. So how do we secure the homeland?

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Dignified Response to Modern Terror by a Free and Democratic Society

The Dignified Response: Introduction

Terrorism is a tactic, designed to take a small application of force (a bomb, grenade, hijacking, etc.) and amplify its psychological effects on a populace through the creation of fear. Terrorism can only succeed through the amplification of their actions, otherwise it remains an isolated violent act that damages only those unfortunate enough to be a direct victim. For terrorism to truly succeed, the people must be led to believe that the terrorists are actually more dangerous and effective then they truly are. However, there are greater dangers out there then terrorism, and our everyday lives are filled with these dangers. There is a greater threat of dying in a car accident each morning on the way to work than to be killed by a terrorist act. Yet we do not throw our car keys away and cower helplessly in the fact of this threat. We accept this danger and we live our lives. No risk can ever be reduced to zero, for there is always the chance of both human error and human irrationality.

Do Not Give In to Fear

The goal of terror is to terrorize. And the greatest cheerleader of Osama bin Laden and Al-Queda, the greatest amplifiers of terror for the last five years, have been the administration of George Bush. They feel that spreading terror to the American public, and to the world, gives them a few points in a poll. Instead of telling America that the only thing we need fear is fear itself, the Bush Administration constantly does the opposite. The terror alert system’s only real purpose seems to keep our citizenry terrorized and anxious. It permits the mere rumor of a terrorist act gain the same power as the actual act, because the rumor is sanctioned by the government and broadcast across America, bringing yet more terror into the homes of the American people.

A model to emulate is India, and Israel, as countries that better understand the price of an open society. In an open and free society, every public space is open to all. This openness and freedom can be used against these societies by those who seek to sow fear, death, and chaos, because it is impossible to prevent a lone, determined individual from taking a small explosive into this public space. But we must hold our heads high, and we must bear this burden, for it is the price of freedom. In India, when they had the deadly bombings of the trains in Mumbai, where hundreds of people died, they did not shut down the train system. They cleaned off the tracks and got the trains rolling, that very day. While we must honor those we have lost, we must advance the cause of liberty. We must remain unbowed, undaunted, and unbroken.

The key is to remain unterrorized. That is not to say that any victim of terrorism will be forgotten. They should be mourned, and their killers should be cursed as cowards. The intelligence and investigative services should vow to hunt the perpetrators down and bring them to justice, just as they should penetrate radical terror cells before they strike to prevent such actions. The populace should not be encouraged to live in fear and jump at shadows, however. They should be told to hold a stiff upper lip in the face of this senseless violence, to continue with their lives in order to show the killers that a free society cannot be intimidated.

The Goal of Freedom Over Terror

The minds of man contain the seeds of both great good and great evil. Whatever security measures we devise, I assure you there is some way around them. But the goal is not total security. That is impossible. The goal is freedom. The goal is to live meaningful lives, unchained from paralytic fear. We must not live in a land of constant checkpoints, pat-downs, and searches, of men with guns always watching, always watching. We must not live ever suspicious of the millions of muslims across the world, and in our own communities. We must live for liberty and justice for all, for it is these common, humanistic ideals that can defeat the pathology of terror.

Ideas are like viruses. This applies to good ideas, like democracy and the rule of law, and to bad ideas, like fascism and terrorism. You cannot bomb an idea away. You cannot exterminate a tactic. You can only inoculate a society against bad ideas by supplying them with the good. These ideas must develop naturally in a society, brought by the sons and daughters of a land, who grow to understand these ideas and embrace them on their own terms. The age of globalization should provide a great opportunity for this exchange of ideas. But fearmongering and war can spoil this bounty. When the stench of Death and misery fills the air, the ideas of law and democracy, based as they are on reason, cannot thrive, and become choked off by the reptilian desires of hatred and vengeance. We must serve as that shining city on the hill, we must serve as an example to those who yearn to think, and reason, and live free. But we must recognize that what we name “collateral damage” is often the death of the innocent. Such deaths give rise to hatred, vengeance and fear. We must live our lives as an example, not act as a scold and a bully. It is difficult to offer peace, freedom, and brotherhood with one hand while the other hand is busy destroying buildings, torturing prisoners, and taking actions that produce innocent corpses.

The Idea of Terror as a Tactic Can Only Be Fought With Other Ideas

We must fight a war, but a war of ideas. A war that champions liberty, justice, and freedom over terror and repression. We must not forget our past in fighting this war. We could not establish democracy and capitalism through the barrel of a gun in Vietnam. We fought, and we killed, and we bombed, and we won every tactical battle we engaged in, and we lost the war. We lost because we tried to fight Nationalism and Post-Colonialism with platitudes about freedom and napalm. However, we won the war of ideas in Cold War Europe without firing a shot. That is not to say that we were not wary, not prepared, and not willing to fight, and yes, to kill, to defend our ideas. But we must act to defend them, not to aggressively insert them. The communist east fell once enough people, even those in power, realized that their ideas could not compete with ours, and, most importantly, that their ideas fail their people.

How to Fight Terrorist Ideals

We must win by appealing to common humanity. If we treat others as humans, with dignity and respect, and support democracy and justice in their country while not eroding their sovereignty, then less people will want to hate and kill. Those killers will still exist, though. We must keep proper tabs on foreign visitors, but we also must ensure that the communities these killers come from reject them. Osama is a murderer and a brigand. But many people respect him. They think he is a great man, for standing up to the US and for lashing out when they feel weak, because they view the U.S. as a colonial occupier. But if they do not feel compelled to lash out, then our intelligence agencies and those of our allies can penetrate the groups and foil the plots. It is a far greater thing to turn a potential terrorist into an agent who will work for peace and work to prevent murder, than to simply kill the man. Winning hearts and minds is not just an empty slogan, although it has been bandied about far too much by those that clearly do not believe in it.

If the muslim communities of the West feel they are part of society, then it will lead to several positive goals. The London airline bomb plot was foiled by people inside the muslim community reporting on suspicious activity. If these immigrant communities feel they are part of the broader society, then they will have a vested interest in defending the society, and will make contributions to prevent attacks.

In a similar vein, if the nations of the middle east are treated as sovereign entities with full status at the table of nations, it will also defuse some, although certainly not all, of the present hostilities. Much too often are terms dictated to these nations, through demands and veiled threats. A consensus is not reached through negotiation and respectful discourse. The Arabs feel that the U.S. and the West are merely seeking to reassert a colonial mantle to control natural resources, which leads to hostility. The Algerian war for independence only ended in 1962. The U.S. helped Britain overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mossadegh, in 1953. Britain and France invaded Egypt over the Suez in 1956. While we in America forget about these things, and we believe in letting the past be the past and always looking forward, the Arabs do not forget. There is a constant and collective fear on their part of a return to colonialism and manipulation of their lives by distant Western powers. Combined with their generally repressive state governments, this fuels numerous conspiracy theories which paint the West in a generally ugly light. If the U.S. makes sure to deal with these countries in a respectful way, it will improve both the American standing and security. Invasions and bombings under false pretenses, such as in Iraq, have only hurt our cause.

There is No Need to Trade Liberty for Security

The current administration generally argues that Americans must give up their freedom and rights to be safe. That thought echoes numerous repressive regimes throughout the 20th Century. If there is an inefficiency in the gathering of information or monitoring of suspected terrorists, the Constitutional solution, the legal solution, is to ask for the law to be changed and the intelligence agencies reformed. However, it is clearly improper to assert that the Executive is unbound by the law. We have a system of laws in America, not a system of men.

The London liquid bomb plot shows that it is easy for the authorities to obtain warrants for surveillance of suspect characters. The British obeyed the law and kept track of a potential threat. Our freedom is that of a government that cannot do as it pleases against who it pleases. Requiring government forces to move through proper channels, generating the attendant paper trail, will ensure two key goals. First, it will ensure that this paper trail can be spread to associated government intelligence agencies, so that the national security apparatus fully understands who is a potential threat, what the potential threat is doing, and how the government is keeping tabs on the threat. It will help the agencies connect the dots. Second, it ensures the liberty of our citizenry, and if governmental powers are abused (and all power and authority given to man is eventually abused), then these abuses can be corrected and the harm redressed. The strength of the American system is that we should be able to honestly deal with failures of both liberty and security, and that we can then move to correct these failures. Repression and silence not only hides potential abuse, but it hides incompetence and ineffectiveness. The 9-11 Report took a good hard look at American intelligence failures, and it didn’t conclude that the only way to solve things is warrantless wiretaps and secret prisons. The solution was an open, communicative government that could efficiently transmit information and put the puzzle pieces together.

Bush is fond of saying the terrorists hate us for our freedoms. If that is the case, then destroying our freedoms can only bring joy to the terrorists. We once had a slogan in this country: Give me Liberty or give me Death. General Stark, a hero of the revolution, toasted his men “Live Free or Die: Death is not the worst of Evils.” New Hampshire adopted this as their state motto, so at least someone in this country still remembers our revolutionary ideals. We must never surrender our liberty for any enemy, be it foreign or domestic, because it is for our freedom that we fight.


We must have the strength of our convictions, and we must let freedom and liberty triumph over fear. This is accomplished by refusing to allow the threat of terrorism, which is an essentially psychological weapon, to close our societies and curtail our liberty. The greatest rebuttal to a terrorist is a refusal to be intimidated, to continue to leave free despite the threat of senseless violence. The message to terrorists should not be that they are the embodiment of evil, upon whom we focus all the energies of our society. This only feeds the narcissism of Al-Queda to help them believe that they lead the Islamic world against a Western crusade. Instead, we should mock them and let them know that as they cower in their caves, we shall always hold our freedom dear and will not surrender it because a few have fallen. We have our own martyrs, martyrs to freedom, whose blood only serves to refresh the tree of liberty. If an airplane is bombed, or if numerous planes are bombed, we will not stop taking to the air, but we will grit our teeth and carry on without intimidation. The terrorists must know that we shall never let their acts of childish violence prevent us from breathing the outside air, from speaking our mind, and from living as proud Americans. We defeat the tactic of terrorism when we refuse to be terrorized. As President Franklin Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself— nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Iraq Solution - Put it to a Vote

There is an optimal solution for the paradox of the Iraqi occupation. Let the Iraqis vote on the continued presence of the U.S. led "Coalition of the Willing" (henceforth simply the U.S.). If they vote we stay, the U.S. presence gains legitimacy, both in Iraq and the international community. If they vote we leave, then we leave with honor. We leave, as perhaps no occupying army has ever left a country it so recently conquered, merely because we were told to by the people. This is an importatn question we must have the people (and not their parlimentary representatives) answer. Democracy cannot be created in the midst of a sectarian civil war with an occupying army hated by the local populace. Since pithy names and sloganering seem to be a prerequisite to selling any Iraq policy, I herby dub this plan the "Democracy and Dignity" plan, since it gives dignity to the Iraqi people by allowing them to use the democratic process as they wish against the U.S.


The Iraq war was originally sold to the world as basically a defensive action (irregardless if the World bought that particuar product). A majority of the representatives of the American people in Congress agreed that Saddam was a mortal threat, who was preparing an eminent strike of WMD's against the American people. The invasion occured, and these stocks of weapons proved nonexistent. Additionally, there is no evidence that ties Saddam to 9-11. Therefore, the war gains no legitimacy as one fought in self-defense, or even one fought as revenge or a comeuppance for the 9-11 attacks. Naturally, Bush argues that we are there to build a flowering democracy.

Viewed from the perspective of the average Iraqi on the ground, the U.S. was jumping at shadows. It invaded Iraq and destroyed its entire governmental system, as well as killing many unfortunate civilians along the way. The U.S. then failed to impose order, which is the first duty of a soverign actor; to secure a monopoly on the use of force for both justice and to enforce property rights. Looting began, as well as forced displacement and some limited ethnic cleansing, especially in areas bordering the Kurdish north. Reconstruction was promised, but after three years all services are still below a pre-war level. Sectarian violence is now common, with deaths appearing to average around 50 a day. The average Iraqi must wonder why the Americans are even in his country, and if they can do any good. The average American is begining to wonder the same thing.

Clearly, this situation is untenable. The only proper solution is to put the continued American presence to a vote. If the Iraqis can go to the polls to elect a government, they can handle a simple plebescite.

The Vote:

There will be two options. The first is to have the Americans stay, until either the next general election for parliament, when this issue will be back on the ballot. A good alternate (or addition) to this "stay" vote would be to permit parliament to ask the U.S. to leave two years after the vote. It is important to make the "stay" option not an open-ended grant, but permit the Iraqi people or their representatives to revisit the issue.

The "leave" option will require the US to pull all forces out of the borders of Iraq in one year and six months. This will be done in gradual phases, slowly at first, but then accelerating. U.S. forces will begin a very slow drawdown (almost non-existent) for the first six months, as more responsibilities are turned over to the Iraqis. The next six months will see a gradual redeployment of the U.S. to the periphery, on the edges of cities in the center of Iraq and a greater concentration of troops in the north, into Kurdish areas, and into the south, near Kuwait. In the last six months, these bases the U.S. troops have withdrawn into will themselves draw down, starting in central Iraq, and then winding up the lines of communication until only border outposts are left. As each base is closed, there will be formal ceremonies turning each base over to Iraqi army commanders, which will be broadcast, hopefully to help the Iraqi people witness the friendly and consenting transfer of power.

Flexibile Withdrawl:

It is indeed possible that this drawdown leads to chaos. Since there is an Iraqi government, one condition is that the government can delay the process, after the first six months of the drawdown, by a parlimentary vote. This vote will have to explain that there is a state of emergency, and continued U.S. forces are needed to help maintain order. However, this would be limited to a hold on the withdrawl plan for a maximum of one year. If the people voted the U.S. out, their will is supreme. The parliament will also be authorized to ask for another vote at the end of this one year delay (so this vote will be held 18 months after the first vote). The U.S. will do nothing to influence this election. If the parliament feels the U.S. presence necessary, after the people disagreed, then they must convince their countrymen.

During the first six months of the withdrawl, the engagement of all Iraqi parties hostile to the U.S. presence is vital. Provided a timetable for withdrawl, many hostile elements will lose much of their motivation to fight (what they see as an "infidel occupation" and a never-ending crusade), and will see they must plan for a time when the U.S. is gone and Iraq is controlled by Iraqis. Also, insteading of standing over the people of Iraqi as a colonial overlord, the U.S. will have bowed to their will. This empowerment can hopefully help enamour the skeptical ones about the power of democracy. If these formerly hostile elements can be turned, then they will likely turn on the Al-Queda elements in Iraq, who only seek to sow death and destruction.

War is Hell:

Although the conduct of the U.S. forces was and is generally exemplary, one must not forget that war is hell. This does not refer to the abberations of abuse, murder of civilians, Abu Ghraib, or other such problems that have seen the limelight. War itself is simply hell. And war must always be so. We cannot make the Iraqis give the country to the U.S. and Al-Queda as a battlefield in the War on Terror, to let their country be the place we bring the hell of war, without their consent in the matter. Many politicians at home are fond of saying "we fight them there, so we don't have to fight them here." Leaving aside the falsity of this statement, it says to the Iraqi that we think that war is a terrible, ugly thing that must never come to the American Homeland. Of course, it is fine for Iraq. It says that their innocent war dead count less then any potential terroist victims. So if we claim to fight against terror and for freedom (and we do), then we must ensure that our fight has the legitimate backing of the people we purport to protect. War will still be hell, but at least we can be sure that we are fighting together, supported by the populace. If we cannot do so, then we must leave. Democracy cannot be created in the midst of a sectarian civil war with an occupying army hated by the local populace.
General Sherman stated "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." He refered to the South, in America's Civil War. It would do us well to remember this statement in Iraq, where we so glibly and willingly brought this cruelty.

Washington Wisdom:

There is a current frame of thought in vogue in the elite circles of Washington (whereby I mean the traditional version of elite, i.e. those who hold power and wealth in our society) that we musn't "abandon" Iraq. Some, usually Republican, claim that a withdrawl means a victory for Al Queda. The logic then goes that we must never withdraw until every last "terrorist" in Iraq is dead or captured. This ignores that many Iraqi "terrorists" are now Shiite militamen on the government payroll, criminals, tribal leaders, old-time Batthists, and resentful locals who seek revenge from some sort of "collateral damage" inflicted by the U.S. Coalition. There are also the Al-Queda inspiried jihadists, who do seek a return to the times of an Islamic Caliphate, hate modernity, and are clear enemeis of the United States. The occupation cannot succed against the Al-Queda elements with the other elements also sowing chaos in Iraq, and the population groups that shield these elements refusing to coopearte with either U.S. forces or the elected government. However, if the occupation is legitimized by the people of Iraq, then it drastically alters the equation. Additionally, if the people of Iraq ask us to leave and we do so, then it demonstrates to the Muslim world we harbor no ambitions of empire and only wanted to help, no matter how incompetently this help was executed.

Many in Washington, especially the current administration, label any departure a "cut and run" strategy. Their current policy seems to be "stand and die." The "dignity and democracy" plan (or "Iraqi Choice" plan, or "Honor and Freedom," etc.) avoids that which any politician fears most: to be labeled a coward, in league with Al-Queda, or an "appeaser." Many Americans were taught as children that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. Politicans operate under the oppostie principle, and after 9-11, feel the need to out-tough each other. Pundits only seem to rate a foreign policy on how "muscular" it is, not on if it makes sense and will lead to an expansion of peace. No politician can successful waive the bloody shirt against a vote, for a vote is the purest expression of the will of the people. Anyone who opposes this policy can be labeled an imperialist, a colonial overlord, someone who endangers our troops by not allowing the occupation to be legitimicized, etc. It can be said that "they oppose freedom and democracy in Iraq." "They want to keep our troops there forever, without even asking the locals if they want us." Any political sloganist can surely come up with better, pithy statements. The Vote plan completely nuetralizes any sort of attack based on alleged weakness. That may be its sublime quality.

Conclusion: The Vote is the key to solving the paradox of America in Iraq

The vote can only do two things: Legitimize the American presence in Iraq, or provide an exit for America with honor. If we have legitimacy, then the fight for order and stability in Iraq will be greatly strengthened. If we are asked to leave, and do so, then we exit with honor. Either way, it shows to the entire Muslim world that we are not occupiers, that we wish to help, and that we respect the opinions and soverignty of the people in the middle east. It will be the single greatest act we could do to help win the hearts and minds of the people.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The First Post: Why am I Here?

Welcome. I have started this instrument as a Series of Humble Proposals, submitted for the General Benefit, although perhaps most apt for the American Political Class. I offer these Ideas and Ruminationsin a non-partisan fashion, and approve of the Use or Adoption of any one or even all of these Ideas. I believe that a Pragmatic application of our faculties and reason to the world around us, combined with a hearty dose of Caution, Skepticism, and Flexibility can only serve to better our Lives and the Future of this great Republic.

That being said, it has become clear that the incompetent administration of our present Government by the certain Cabinet presided over by the Honorable messers Bush has failed to helm the ship of state in a manner that leads to prolonged Honor, Prosperity, and Glory of the Republic. Additionally, the Republican stalwarts of the Legislature have failed to hold Mr. Bush accountable for these inexcusable failures. As such, they herby adopt them as their own.
This criticism, as is the nature of our government, must be reserved to those in the leadership positions of the party or those who fully approve and endorse the Bush policy of negligence. A policy that will only wish things work out, rather than of ensuring that they do through leadership and hard work.