September 11, 2001
Our School Responds
In the days following the terrorists attacks in Washington and New York, many Kennedy School faculty, whose work focuses on preparedness and terrorism, spoke out aboutthe tragedy. They appeared on television, radio, and in print. The following articles appeared in the news the week following the attacks as the Bulletin went to press.
was a transformative event in American history. The closely fought political
battle between isolationists and internationalists was swept aside by
the Japanese attack. The lesson that the United States had to be involved
in international affairs was seared into the American collective memory.
Isolationism ceased to be a credible option.
11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is likely to involve
casualties that are many times higher than the 2,500 deaths suffered at
Pearl Harbor, and at least an order of magnitude higher than the hundreds
of deaths that have characterized the worst terrorist incidents of recent
decades. And as horrible as were the effects of turning fully fueled civil
aircraft into flying bombs, the use of nuclear or biological agents could
be even worse. A number of analysts and experts have been predicting that
an incident of catastrophic terrorism would occur. A recent commission
on national security chaired by former senators Gary Hart and Warren Rudman
warned of our vulnerability, and a 1998 Kennedy School study on catastrophic
terrorism warned that like Pearl Harbor, such an event would divide
our past and future into a before and after.
these changes look like? We should hope for major changes in defense and
intelligence policies, modest changes in foreign policy, and mixed changes
on the domestic front. American defense policy has been focused on projecting
force abroad and the ability to prevail in conflicts far from our shores.
The stationing of troops in Europe, Asia, and the Persian Gulf helps to
shape the environment and assure a stable balance of power in critical
regions. Our forces have been structured and sized to prevail in major
regional conflicts. But as the Hart and Rudman Commission pointed out,
this important function is no longer sufficient to protect the American
homeland. Nor would ballistic missile defense do the trick. They recommended
a new organization that would focus on homeland defense, improved use
of human intelligence agents, and better coordination of defense, intelligence,
and law enforcement agencies.
policy, it would be a mistake for Americans to think that they could buy
protection by drawing back from overseas commitments. The American economy
and popular culture have global effects that will continue to arouse hostility
in some fundamentalists even if the United States government were to eschew
an active foreign policy. Calls to draw back from the Middle East, for
example, would not remove the vulnerability. On the contrary, the recent
events suggest that we should be more proactive in pressing forward with
a Middle East peace process. At the same time, our vulnerabilities also
suggest that unilateralist approaches are ill suited to meet the challenge
of transnational issues that cut across national boundaries, whether they
be climate change or terrorism. We are going to have to learn better to
cooperate with other countries behind their borders and within ours. And
unilateralist policies that squander our attractive or soft
power will make this more difficult.
On the domestic
front, we will need to improve our organizations and security procedures.
In the area of civil aviation, for example, airports will become even
less friendly places with more tedious delays; approach routes to airports
may have to be altered for security reasons; and aircraft cockpits more
securely isolated during flights. But at the same time, we have to realize
that open societies are always vulnerable, and that there is a trade-off
between security and other values in our society. Perfect security is
found in graveyards and some prisons, but no one wants to live there.
are scared for their lives, they do not always react well. Even liberal
presidents have taken harsh measures. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeus
corpus at the beginning of the American Civil War, and Franklin D. Roosevelt
allowed Japanese-Americans to be removed from their homes and placed in
internment camps in World War II. The one transformation we do not want
to occur from a domestic Pearl Harbor is such a serious sacrifice of our
civil liberties. It is one thing to suffer long lines and delays at airports;
it is quite another to condone ethnic screening of passengers, or arbitrary
searches without warrant or probable cause. Thus far, with the exception
of some intemperate Congressional speeches and a few public expressions
of ethnic hostility, Americans have responded well to the horrors of the
September 11 attacks. It will be important for the president and other
leaders to continue to shape a response that stays within reasonable boundaries
in the trade off between liberty and security. After all, a failure to
do so would be to sacrifice our most central values, and that would be
the ultimate damage the terrorists could inflict on a democracy.
S. Nye, Jr. is dean of the Kennedy School of Government and former assistant
secretary of defense for international security affairs.
As we mourn
the victims of Tuesdays vicious attack on America, it is not too
early to begin thinking about lessons of the event. This domestic Pearl
Harbor sounds an alarm that should wake up American citizens and our government
from a decade of what can only be called delusion. The brute fact is that
the sole remaining superpower is supremely vulnerable to unconventional
attacks by terrorists and rogue states.
end of the Cold War, American policymakers have grown accustomed to bombing
others unilaterally attacking targets in Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq,
Sudan, and Afghanistan. Today the U.S. government sanctions 75 countries,
provides military support to friends in ongoing conflicts (Israel against
Palestinians, the Northern Alliance against the Taliban), and offers imperious
instructions to all comers.
overwhelming preponderance of American power, others find it uncomfortable
to share a bathtub with an elephant. When that elephant arrogates to itself
the role of enforcer of its views about how Iraqis, Afghans, Chinese,
and others should manage their internal affairs, should it be surprising
that some become resentful and even seek revenge?
delusion in our recent national sleepwalk has been to imagine that we
can intervene in other societies with impunity as if we lived on
another planet. When American B2s leave U.S. bases to launch cruise missiles
against a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan or refugee camp in Afghanistan,
what reaction should we expect?
but until Tuesday unbelievable truth is that as the most open society
in the world, America is among the most vulnerable. Not just to ballistic
missiles carrying weapons of mass destruction, as President Bush would
have it a threat, but one that falls near the bottom of this decades
top ten vulnerabilities. From hijacked airplanes, to a minivan
filled with fertilizer-based explosives parked outside Oklahoma Citys
terrorist group that organized Tuesdays assault have done even greater
damage? What about a suitcase nuclear weapon or a crude nuclear device
constructed from a softball-sized lump of highly enriched uranium delivered
by a minivan? There are approximately 100,000 such lumps of fissionable
material in Russian arsenals and stockpiles today. As a recent report
of a bipartisan task force chaired by Senator (now Ambassador) Howard
Baker and former Counsel to the President Lloyd Cutler concluded: The
most urgent, unmet national security threat to the United States today
is the danger that weapons of mass destruction or weapons-usable material
in Russia could be stolen by criminals, sold to terrorists or hostile
nation states, and used to threaten American troops abroad or citizens
at home. Alternatively, a crop duster could spray a biological agent
over New York City or Washington or Kansas City.
as Tuesdays assault was, it has punctured our delusion of invulnerability.
If our government will now recognize Americas Achilles heel, and
seriously addresses this danger, we can perhaps save ourselves from even
greater catastrophes that are otherwise likely.
should be done? Combating terrorist attacks on the American homeland will
require a serious all-azimuth defense not for a day or a decade,
but perpetually. There exists and can exist no magic shield, no impenetrable
bubble, no exit from life on a shrinking globe where international commerce,
travel, and most importantly the individual freedoms Americans rightly
value create inescapable vulnerabilities.
president and leaders of Congress should take the advice of a number of
recent commissions and order their staffs to produce a comprehensive strategic
plan to engage the full array of both unconventional and conventional
threats to Americans lives and liberties. In the weeks ahead, they
should approve a robust program of action to defend the American homeland.
A major pillar of such a plan will involve going to the source
of the greatest danger today, and as the Baker-Cutler Task Force recommends,
buying and removing as quickly as possible all the nuclear weapons and
weapons-useable material Russia is prepared to sell.
missile defense? An all-azimuth strategy must address ballistic missile
threats as well. Fortunately, such threats are much less likely, and less
urgent, than the most recent attack we suffered. The reasons why are not
difficult to understand. First, to attack the United States with a ballistic
missile, terrorists would have had to acquire not only a nuclear warhead
(or a biological warhead), but also to have performed further technical
feats by building a ballistic missile that could reach the United States
and miniaturizing a warhead to fit on the missile. Given the availability
of planes, ships, sea-land containers, and even FedEx, terrorists, and
rogue states have easier alternatives. Second, attacking the United States
by ballistic missile has an additional fatal drawback: it leaves an unambiguous
return address. Any group or state that initiated such an attack would
know that it had signed a warrant for its sudden death.
awake from the shock and horror of Tuesdays attack, we should now
get real about defending Americas homeland. Defending ourselves
will, in time, require a roof against ballistic missile attacks. But for
tomorrow and the decade ahead, we have much higher priorities beginning
with intelligence about threats, preemptive actions to prevent threats
before they happen, and more mundane initiatives that will secure the
windows, walls, and doors of our American home against this clear and
T. Allison is director of the Kennedy School of Governments Belfer
Center for Science and International Affairs. He is a former assistant
secretary of defense for policy and plans.
Feared Is Not Enough to Keep Us Safe
are eager to retaliate quickly for the brutal attacks in New York and
Washington. Nearly 90 percent of respondents supported taking military
action against those responsible even if it led to war, according to a
Washington Post poll. The desire for revenge at a moment like this
is perfectly understandable: we are traumatized as a nation. But striking
back quickly is far less important than discouraging future strikes by
our enemies, and the two are not the same. We cannot afford to allow an
emotional desire for retribution to override our long-term national security
to deter, compel, or appease their adversaries, smart leaders first learn
about their enemies desires and fears. It is not clear that quick
retaliation is what suicide bombers fear most. We cannot punish the perpetrators;
they are already dead. And the organizers of these attacks obviously care
more about taking revenge on us than they do about their own security.
Osama bin Laden, for example, is reported to have said on the day of the
attack that he is ready to die, and that if the U.S. military manages
to kill him, thousands more Osamas will take his place.
I have met
some of these Osamas. They appear in many countries and subscribe
to many religions. They are usually drawn to extremist movements out of
a feeling of severe deprivation whether socioeconomic, political,
or psychological. Inside extremist groups, the spiritually perplexed learn
to focus on action. The weak become strong. The selfish become altruists,
ready to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in the belief that
their deaths will serve the public good.
Ive interviewed describe the emotional satisfaction of their work,
and the status they earn in their community. One becomes important
due to his work. Successful operations make a militant famous and glamorous
among his fellow men, a trainer for a Pakistani group told me.
describe fighting as becoming a way of life. Jamal Al-Fadl, a member of
al Qaeda who became a witness for the U.S. government, said that after
the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan, there were a number of men
who had been fighting so long that it was the only thing they really
knew how to do. One long-term operative told me, A person
addicted to heroin can get off it if he really tries, but a mujahed cannot
leave the jihad. I am spiritually addicted to jihad, he said.
explain that the jihad doctrine actually delineates acceptable behavior
in war and, like the Western just war tradition, explicitly
outlaws terrorism. But in the extremist schools I have visited, clerics,
often barely trained themselves, preach a virulent version of Islam, teaching
their charges that murder is morally sanctioned and that innocent people
are fair prey.
not the only religion that produces such extremists. A Christian militant
who is now on death row for murder told me he was not trying to appeal
his death sentence. The heightened threat, the more difficulties
forced on [me as] a Christian, the more joy I experience, he said.
Jewish extremists have repeatedly attacked the Dome of the Rock, despite
knowing that their actions could cause truly massive casualties or even
greatest weapon is its popular support. When we attack with inadequate
intelligence and hit the wrong target or the right ones at the wrong time,
as we probably did when we retaliated for bin Ladens 1998 attacks,
we play right into our enemies hands. We looked ineffectual. And
we enhance our adversaries public relations and fund-raising strategies.
After the American attacks in 1998, the head of a Pakistani militant group,
which trains militants in Afghanistan, immediately held a press conference
pronouncing, Osamas mission is our mission. It is the mission
of the whole Islamic world. The attacks did not enhance Americas
image with the mujahideen Ive interviewed, who describe tomahawk
missiles as weapons for cowards too afraid to risk their lives in combat
or to look their enemy in the eye.
this mean for our national security strategy? Our leaders need to commit
themselves to a long, hard fight. We need to rely less on high-tech intelligence
and more on the old fashioned kind. But this is a war that must be fought
on many fronts, using every tool at governments disposal: diplomacy,
intelligence, and, if we identify the perpetrator, military strikes. Force
is not nearly enough. We need to drain the swamps where these young men
thrive. We have a stake in the welfare of other peoples and need to devote
a much higher priority to health, education, and economic development
or new Osamas will continue to arise. It matters what other people think
of us. We need to think much more seriously than we have about whether
we are perceived by people in other parts of the world as malevolent or
benevolent. Being feared for our military strength alone is not sufficient
to guarantee our security.
Stern is a lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government and a leading
authority on terrorists.
Preparedness Should Inspire Other Cities to Act
after the horrific terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers,
city firefighters, ambulance teams, police officers, and rescue and hazardous
materials specialists raced to the scene and sometimes gave their
lives trying to save others. Local hospitals and health care workers bore
the brunt of emergency care; and city police and the states National
Guard are keeping order in lower Manhattan. City and state agencies will
oversee the months of cleanup and years of reconstruction yet to come.
These are grim reminders that local and state institutions not
mainly the federal government are the crucial players in disaster
emergency mobilization has been exemplary, but its performance under extreme
stress is not the result of heroism and extraordinary effort alone. During
the 1990s, under Mayor Rudolph Giulianis active leadership, the
city seriously committed itself to developing a strong emergency management
system. It invested dollars, recruited talented managers, planned extensively,
and provided systematic training to response personnel. Terrorism was
one of New Yorks key concerns the earlier bombing of the
World Trade Center 1993 was a wake-up call but the city correctly
sought to prepare for all kinds of disasters, not just terrorism.
cities in America could have responded to the World Trade Center attack
this week as well as New York City has been able to do; and the tragic
events there suggest how important it is for other locales to buttress
their emergency management systems to save lives in future disasters.
to be done?
doesnt lie in a dedicated system designed for terrorism, although
some may urge us to focus on that threat alone. Instead, we need to significantly
strengthen the general-purpose (or all-hazard) emergency management
systems that already exist in Boston and Massachusetts and most
other big cities and states in the United States.
some specialized capacity is needed to combat terrorism, it makes no sense
to separate terrorism from emergency preparedness for hurricanes, floods,
blizzards, earthquakes, industrial explosions, and airline crashes not
caused by terrorists. Many of the needed resources emergency medical
services, rescue workers, law enforcement, for example are similar
no matter what the emergency. Even specialized resources often have multiple
applications. Such a system can be flexible and effectively prepared for
a wide range of contingencies, including but not limited to terrorism.
neglect and underinvest in such services, however, because they are invisible
in ordinary times, called on infrequently, and have relatively weak political
constituencies compared to many other public services.
threat and reality of terrorism as a spur to improve emergency management
makes good sense, even though catastrophic terrorism is likely to occur
infrequently certainly in any particular locale. We dont
know what places will be targeted. Before they were attacked, we might
have guessed New York and Washington but probably not Oklahoma City. It
prudent for all areas to take account of the threat.
metropolitan areas that will never be attacked by terrorists need the
ability to respond to other types of disasters natural and manmade.
A special system for terrorism would be duplicative and wasteful, but
a strong general emergency management system is likely to prove useful,
even essential, everywhere. Moreover, an all-hazard approach is more likely
than a terrorism-only system to get sufficient funds for personnel, equipment,
training, and exercises and to effectively sustain the readiness
of these resources over time.
of specific improvements in existing emergency capacity should be high
need improved emergency planning, not because we can predict or prepare
for every disaster that might arise we know that is impossible
but because the more contingencies we consider and probe, the more
angles we can be ready for. Emergency planning must emphasize flexible
response capacity. Just as the military must develop general skills to
fight wars and battles whose exact dimensions cannot be known in advance,
emergency managers must develop equally flexible plans and implementation
must improve the way that we direct and coordinate the diverse agencies
and professional groups that come together from many locales and levels
of government in a crisis. Within hours of the crisis in New York City,
as in Oklahoma City before, multiple fire crews, police officers, ambulances,
and rescue workers converged not only from all over the city but
from neighboring jurisdictions in Long Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
How can these teams be productively coordinated when they have never before
worked together and have no common operational methods? Are they doomed
to ineffectiveness or even inadvertently to endanger each
Much of the
solution lies in using incident management systems, developed
initially by the fire service in California
need more health care surge capacity. Over the past decade,
health care has become leaner: fewer empty hospital beds, more intensively
used equipment, just-in-time restocking of pharmaceuticals and supplies,
and tighter medical staffing physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians,
and support personnel alike. But squeezing the fat out of
the health care system has left it with far less residual capacity to
respond to disasters and other emergencies.
not have large amounts of normally unused health care capacity simply
awaiting the next emergency, though the exact margin of capacity needs
careful assessment. Instead, we need to develop specific plans for unconventional
health care resources that can be quickly deployed if disaster strikes.
These might include additional facilities for emergency care in school
gyms, sports arenas, convention centers; mobile equipment and supplies;
and registries of trained health care personnel who are currently retired
or doing other jobs but could be called on in an emergency.
need improved communications systems, including widely accepted interoperability
standards so that telephones, radios, and walkie-talkie systems used by
emergency agencies can talk to each other.
must make sure that we budget funds to train emergency workers adequately
and regularly test their skills in exercises.
of terrorism is likely to be with us for many years. We must be better
prepared for attacks, but the way to assure that we have appropriate response
capability is to build a stronger all-hazard emergency management system
that is ready for but not dedicated to terrorism alone.
Arnold Howitt is executive director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government and director of the executive session on domestic preparedness at the Kennedy School of Government.