The recent reorganization of the FBI in the wake of allegations and much evidence that it did not properly respond to serious warnings of terrorist activity last summer is long overdue, but probably not enough. I expect another round, possibly including much higher level terminations.
These preliminary steps at the FBI are but the first of many that will be necessary to transform our thinking. We need a major shift in our collective mindset and it will not be easy for Americans to absorb. For too long, we have lived with a false sense of security behind two oceans without fear of war on U. S. soil. To be sure, the Cold War was real, but psychologically, a potential nuclear conflict between two superpowers, each with much to lose in the exchange, is a much different threat than terrorism, which, in many ways, is more insidious.
Compounding the challenge is that a primary role of our domestic investigative agencies will now of necessity be prevention, not apprehension after the fact. This means a transformation to a culture that allows for pre-emptive strategies that will no doubt conflict with many of our civil liberties. The American Civil Liberties Union has already expressed dismay at some of the recent policy changes. They haven’t yet seen anything like what will be necessary to get the job done, and this conflict will almost certainly produce visitations to many of the liberals’ most cherished judicial precedents of the past forty years. Can you imagine the reaction in this country if we were subjected to a handful of suicide bombings like those in Israel? How fast do you think the prohibition of “profiling” would end? How quickly would vigilante groups be organized? How fast would airline pilots be armed?
In a recent Wall Street Journal essay, former Reagan undersecretary of defense Fred C. Ikle talks of the “political asymmetry of ends and means”, by which he means that our current enemy, like the nineteenth century anarchist, seeks not conquest and expansion of his nation-state, but complete destruction of ours.
We need a shake up (and wake up) that prepares us for a fundamentally different kind of warfare, a kind that is alien to our value systems. As Jonah Goldberg has suggested, this will also require “total war”, a type that not only defeats the enemy’s military capability, but forces a complete transformation of his society, as with Japan and Germany after World War II. Can we handle it?