How Our World Will Change After Tuesday Terrorism Expert Examines the Future of National Security

By Audrey Cronin

As we deal with our grief, sadness, and anger in the wake of the Tuesday’s attacks, many are asking: How will the United States change in response to these watershed events? Let me suggest five main areas of focus.

First, and most obviously, there will be changes in our military policies. As the weeks pass, it is likely that there will be an increase in defense spending for counterterrorism, or at least an important shift of resources away from other areas and toward counterterrorist measures. This will include a greater emphasis on homeland defense, and the use of the military for counterterrorist missions at home. Both of these trends began before thes heinous attacks, and they will accelerate. We have already seen, and will continue to see, extremely strong pressures to “do something” – to engage in a quick, cathartic attack. There will be a formal or informal declaration of “war” against the perpetrators, as well as concerted, intense efforts to identify a target or targets for a military response. These pressures will carry with them the danger of believing that a “war” can be “won” against terrorists with traditional military means alone, and will further complicate the chronic American difficulty of formulating a longer term, coordinated strategy. A response is appropriate; but it must be part of a larger, multifaceted and hopefully multilateral strategy.

Second, in the area of law enforcement, funding on counterterrorism and consequence management has been increasing since the mid-1990s, and there will be an even sharper increase in spending in future months and years. The role of the FBI will increase, and scrutiny of that agency’s effectiveness will continue as the investigations unfold. We can expect more domestic security measures in the United States, mostly obviously in airports, as well as restrictions and regulations on pilot training programs, the likely introduction of sky marshals on domestic U.S. flights, and a movement toward requiring flight personnel to carry weapons. I would expect a transfer of responsibility for airport security to federal law enforcement, away from the Federal Aviation Administration (whose mission is also to promote aviation) and individual airlines. There will be new guidelines about the movement of commercial planes, and probably a decrease in airline travel overall.

Third, in the area of intelligence, there will obviously be more resources devoted to counterterrorist intelligence. While electronic eavesdropping and satellite reconnaissance will continue to play a major role, human intelligence will be better funded. There will also be more international cooperation and exchange of intelligence information related to terrorist organizations. In the past five years or so the focus of U.S. attention has been on the threat of so-called “weapons of mass destruction” terrrorist attacks, by which was meant attacks using chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapons. These recent tragic events will shift the focus back toward conventional attacks that can be just as massively destructive.

Fourth, in the realm of international cooperation, there will be more emphasis on international legal restrictions and conventions. Although these measures, like the recent International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, are limited in their short-term effectiveness, there is important potential in this area and it is important that we respond on all fronts. As we have seen, there is more pulling together with our allies and with other states that share a horrified reaction to these tragedies. By this, I mean not only our most stalwart and reliable friends, but also others who may not have been traditional partners but who have recoiled in reaction to Tuesday’s events.

Fifth, regarding public opinion and social behavior at home, there will naturally be increased anxiety among Americans. This is understandable; but we are not starting from the smug sense of invulnerability that some “talking heads” have claimed in recent days. According to a 1999 poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 84 percent of those questioned considered international terrorism a “critical threat” to the U.S. Americans became increasingly concerned about the threat of terrorism beginning in the mid-1990s, when the first attack on the World Trade Center, the bombing of the Murrah building and the release of sarin in the Tokyo subway system painfully grabbed our attention. (It is no coincidence that the courses I have taught on counterterrorism in the past two years have been consistently oversubscribed.) There will be strong pressure to respond quickly to the attacks, inflammatory speeches in Congress aimed at expressing and channeling the public mood, and more pressure for spending U.S. resources at home, rather than abroad. Most worrisome, there is a very great danger of a backlash against Arab- and Persian-Americans, which must be resisted with every possible means. Such grossly misdirected anger could perpetuate the goals of the terrorists by driving a wedge in American society. The worst of our emotional impulses will vie with the best of the American spirit in the coming weeks, as we continue to witness incredible stories of heroism, community solidarity, inclusiveness, and pride in American fortitude.

Most terrorism is directed not at the actual victims of the attack, but at the audience. The first wave in the attack has occurred, with the devastating murders of the innocent that we have witnessed in Washington and New York. But the second wave is up to us: How we react to the tragedies we have witnessed, how we respond in the future days and months, will determine whether or not the terrorists eventually succeed in their aims.

Audrey Kurth Cronin is a professor in the Security Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service.

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How Our World Will Change After Tuesday Terrorism Expert Examines the Future of National Security

By Audrey Cronin

As we deal with our grief, sadness, and anger in the wake of the Tuesday’s attacks, many are asking: How will the United States change in response to these watershed events? Let me suggest five main areas of focus.

First, and most obviously, there will be changes in our military policies. As the weeks pass, it is likely that there will be an increase in defense spending for counterterrorism, or at least an important shift of resources away from other areas and toward counterterrorist measures. This will include a greater emphasis on homeland defense, and the use of the military for counterterrorist missions at home. Both of these trends began before thes heinous attacks, and they will accelerate. We have already seen, and will continue to see, extremely strong pressures to “do something” – to engage in a quick, cathartic attack. There will be a formal or informal declaration of “war” against the perpetrators, as well as concerted, intense efforts to identify a target or targets for a military response. These pressures will carry with them the danger of believing that a “war” can be “won” against terrorists with traditional military means alone, and will further complicate the chronic American difficulty of formulating a longer term, coordinated strategy. A response is appropriate; but it must be part of a larger, multifaceted and hopefully multilateral strategy.

Second, in the area of law enforcement, funding on counterterrorism and consequence management has been increasing since the mid-1990s, and there will be an even sharper increase in spending in future months and years. The role of the FBI will increase, and scrutiny of that agency’s effectiveness will continue as the investigations unfold. We can expect more domestic security measures in the United States, mostly obviously in airports, as well as restrictions and regulations on pilot training programs, the likely introduction of sky marshals on domestic U.S. flights, and a movement toward requiring flight personnel to carry weapons. I would expect a transfer of responsibility for airport security to federal law enforcement, away from the Federal Aviation Administration (whose mission is also to promote aviation) and individual airlines. There will be new guidelines about the movement of commercial planes, and probably a decrease in airline travel overall.

Third, in the area of intelligence, there will obviously be more resources devoted to counterterrorist intelligence. While electronic eavesdropping and satellite reconnaissance will continue to play a major role, human intelligence will be better funded. There will also be more international cooperation and exchange of intelligence information related to terrorist organizations. In the past five years or so the focus of U.S. attention has been on the threat of so-called “weapons of mass destruction” terrrorist attacks, by which was meant attacks using chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological weapons. These recent tragic events will shift the focus back toward conventional attacks that can be just as massively destructive.

Fourth, in the realm of international cooperation, there will be more emphasis on international legal restrictions and conventions. Although these measures, like the recent International Convention on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, are limited in their short-term effectiveness, there is important potential in this area and it is important that we respond on all fronts. As we have seen, there is more pulling together with our allies and with other states that share a horrified reaction to these tragedies. By this, I mean not only our most stalwart and reliable friends, but also others who may not have been traditional partners but who have recoiled in reaction to Tuesday’s events.

Fifth, regarding public opinion and social behavior at home, there will naturally be increased anxiety among Americans. This is understandable; but we are not starting from the smug sense of invulnerability that some “talking heads” have claimed in recent days. According to a 1999 poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 84 percent of those questioned considered international terrorism a “critical threat” to the U.S. Americans became increasingly concerned about the threat of terrorism beginning in the mid-1990s, when the first attack on the World Trade Center, the bombing of the Murrah building and the release of sarin in the Tokyo subway system painfully grabbed our attention. (It is no coincidence that the courses I have taught on counterterrorism in the past two years have been consistently oversubscribed.) There will be strong pressure to respond quickly to the attacks, inflammatory speeches in Congress aimed at expressing and channeling the public mood, and more pressure for spending U.S. resources at home, rather than abroad. Most worrisome, there is a very great danger of a backlash against Arab- and Persian-Americans, which must be resisted with every possible means. Such grossly misdirected anger could perpetuate the goals of the terrorists by driving a wedge in American society. The worst of our emotional impulses will vie with the best of the American spirit in the coming weeks, as we continue to witness incredible stories of heroism, community solidarity, inclusiveness, and pride in American fortitude.

Most terrorism is directed not at the actual victims of the attack, but at the audience. The first wave in the attack has occurred, with the devastating murders of the innocent that we have witnessed in Washington and New York. But the second wave is up to us: How we react to the tragedies we have witnessed, how we respond in the future days and months, will determine whether or not the terrorists eventually succeed in their aims.

Audrey Kurth Cronin is a professor in the Security Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.