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by Allan McDougall

8:00 a.m. January 15, 2001 PDT

The license on 'terrorism' is not held by one group of people, nor is it restricted to one state...if we truly want to be rid of this form of conflict, it will take much more than air strikes in Afghanistan and freezing funds in the West.

National Guard at ground zeroWHEN ONE LOOKS at the War on Terrorism, one generally considers two efforts. The first involves the actual military conflict and the establishment of a peacekeeping force within Afghanistan. The second involves the implementation of new measures and procedures designed to protect people at home. One area that is not being given its due involves the evolution of policies surrounding the new environment. It is in this third category that the West faces its greatest challenges and, arguably, one of its greatest threats.

While much attention has been paid to the conflict in Afghanistan, it is only one chapter in the War on Terrorism. Certainly it is an important chapter. The dismemberment of the Al Quaeda network is a crucial piece in the conflict. Certainly, the capture of Bin Laden is becoming more and more a matter of national pride in ensuring that he comes to justice for his actions. What has becoming increasingly clear over the past months, however, is that the conflict in Afghanistan is only one step on a very long journey.

If the concept of a War on Terrorism is equated with the conflict in Afghanistan, one misses most of the point to the exercise. The license on 'terrorism' is not held by one group of people, nor is it restricted to one state. As a result, if we truly want to be rid of this form of conflict, it will take much more than air strikes in Afghanistan and freezing funds in the West.

What we saw in Canada recently was a budget that focused almost exclusively on security concerns. Needless to say, many of the measures were far overdue. The events of September 11th, however catastrophic, were also catalytic in nature and, as with most sudden reactions, things were thrown out of balance.

In Canada, we have not faced the same level of apparent threat as the United States. There have been no cases of anthrax in the mail, although there have hoaxes and scares. As time passes, and threats do not appear, one can almost certainly guarantee that the pendulum of public opinion will swing in the other direction putting pressure on the government to come back to the former arena of social programs.

And therein lies the problem.

There are essentially three forms of spending currently being put in place. The first involves granting additional funds to support certain key programs. Secondly, there are allocations of one-time funding that have been allocated to bring certain aspects of programs up to date. Finally, there are allocations of funds that have been set aside to purchase equipment and other items to buttress the immediate security concerns.

Funding being made available for key programs will undoubtedly be allocated in two ways—additional personnel and better equipment. As a result, both will involve long-term financial commitments. Personnel, once declared passed the infamous term status, have been integrated into the public service and are extremely difficult to reduce in number. Similarly, new equipment means new training and a host of other issues that arise when systems change.

The second level of funding is one of the greatest weaknesses in the overall plan. Contingency planning, as we have just learned the hard way, is an ongoing process that requires constant attention. We have also learned that our new foe is remarkably adaptive and will quite readily take advantage of any apparent weakness. If we believe we will be able to simply write new plans and then assign them a shelf life of some twenty years, I would argue that we would be living with some rather false expectations. Once the current fiscal year’s allocation of funds has been spent, we can expect to return to the same challenges that have faced security departments—how to incorporate additional tasks into very limited fund bases.

Finally, there is an obvious attempt to purchase equipment that can best be described as a comfort blanket for the public. While scanners and detectors have an important role, one does not have to go too far to find people willing to sell latex gloves and breathing masks to any organization that handles any amount of mail. As with any new business opportunity, there have been more than enough people suddenly stepping in to fill the void with a wide range of ineffective, if not outright dangerous, pieces of equipment designed to make people fill safe.

Knowing that we are in this for the long term means designing not only immediate plans, but also the processes to establish and integrate those plans as part of a long-term strategy. This will require a somber second look at how much we are actually willing to spend (or how much more we are willing to pay) in order to sustain those programs. In short, public opinion has demanded that politicians meet the demand for additional security spending (although there must be some officials in DND wondering what has to happen for them to get a sustained increase in their own budget). In time, however, that demand will fade, particularly if there are no incidents that reinforce the threat. When that happens, we will have to address the problem of sustaining security programs without leaving us vulnerable while meeting new priorities.

This will be a particularly difficult challenge in Canada, where the attacks have not hit close to home. While there have been some hoaxes, the far more serious incidents have occurred south of our border.

Allan McDougall, a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, is the founder of ForcesForChange, a political and military affairs analysis group drawing from fifteen different countries.

Article copyright © Allan McDougall; all rights reserved
related resources

| r e a d i n g |

Combating Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Terrorism: A Comprehensive Strategy (A Report of the Csis Homeland Defense Project); Frank J. Cilluffo, Sharon L. Cardash, Gordon Nathaniel Lederman; ISBN: 0892063890

Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Defending the U.S. Homeland; Anthony H. Cordesman; ISBN: 0275974278

How Did This Happen? Terrorism and the New War; Gideon Rose, James F. Hoge Jr.; ISBN: 1586481304

The Age of Terror: America and the World After September 11; Strobe Talbot, Nayan Chanda ; ISBN: 0465083560

Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Defending the U.S. Homeland; Anthony H. Cordesman; ISBN: 0275974278

Insurgency & Terrorism: Inside Modern Revolutionary Warfare; Bard E. O'Neill, Edward C. Meyer; ISBN: 1574883356

What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response; Bernard Lewis; ISBN: 0195144201

Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox; Jonathan B. Tucker; ISBN: 0871138301

The New Face of Terrorism: Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction; Nadine Gurr, Benjamin Cole; ISBN: 1860644600

Holy War, Inc.: Inside The Secret World of Osama Bin Laden; Peter L. Bergen; ISBN: 0743205022

From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine; Joan Peters; ISBN: 0963624202

Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society); Mark Juergensmeyer; ISBN: 0520223012

Economic Sanctions and American Diplomacy; Richard Haass, Council on Foreign Relations; ISBN: 0876092121

Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy; Paul R. Pillar, Michael H. Armacost; ISBN: 0815700040

Insurgency & Terrorism: Inside Modern Revolutionary Warfare;Bard E. O'Neill, Edward C. Meyer; ISBN: 1574883356

The Ultimate Terrorists; Jessica Stern; ISBN: 0674617908

The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism; Simon Reeve; ISBN: 1555534074

| u s e n e tg r o u p s |













| w e b s i t e s |

National Security Agency

Office of Homeland Security (White House)

Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security (US Gov)

Defense Technical Information Center (US Dept of Defense)

DefenseLINK (Official Website of the US Dept of Defense)

GAO Reports: Homeland Security (US General Accounting Office)

US Immigration & Naturalization Service (USINS INS)

Jane's Information Group

Jane's Regional Security Digest

Homeland Security and Defense (Business Week publication)

Center for Security Policy

ANSER Institute for Homeland Security

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Center For Strategic & International Studies

Regional Centre for Strategic Studies

Adm. Blair on Regional Security, Fight Against Terrorism (US Dept of State)

The Army and Homeland Security: A Strategic Perspective... (US Army War College)

(*see our resource directory for add'l resources)

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