A book worth the reading on keeping American strong and free
By Stephen M. Lilienthal
Too many Americans only vaguely are aware that our country is endangered. They consider 9/11 to be a one-day event and view Iran and Afghanistan and the Middle East generally to be far removed from their concerns. Worth the reading is the recently published War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take To Prevail In The War For The Free World, edited by Frank J.Gaffney, Jr. Gaffney is well known to Free Congress Foundation inasmuch as he co-hosts a luncheon sponsored by Coalitions for America, a sister organization, which examines national security issues. Experts from Capitol Hill and defense-related agencies attend this luncheon meeting, which often includes a discussion about the threat posed to our country by radical Islam.
Fortunately, Gaffney's book calls to action those Americans who worry about the stakes confronting our country. The book presents a wide-ranging, comprehensive overview of the security challenges. The book covers ten important issues including, improving American diplomacy and outreach efforts to the Middle East, clamping down on investing in companies of which business ends up supporting terrorism, responding to the threat of "Islamofascism" in Africa and elsewhere, from Red China and leftist-oriented Latin America regimes.
In a forward, Admiral James Woolsey (USN, Retired) makes clear his concern about our country and our current policies. Woolsey discusses our country's failure to appreciate the dead-earnest nature of our Islamic enemies, specifically those who adhere to what he calls "Sunni Theocratic Totalitarianism," a hostility not only to Jews and Christians and much of modern life (for better or worse) but even to those Muslims who are Shi'ite and Sufi rather than Sunni.
These Muslims are exemplified by the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia and the Salafist Jihadists who belong to al-Qaida. Neither can accept religious pluralism or the freedom that underlies our Judeo-Christian society. Woolsey explains that the differences between the two camps are analogous to the deep-seated abhorrence that existed between Stalinists and Trotskyites in the 1930s. Each camp is united by a vision of Islam predominating throughout the world with no separation between church and state. Unlike the Communist leadership of the former Soviet Union in the era of Mutually Assured Destruction, many of the radical Islamics ("Islamofascism" is the preferred term) cannot be counted on to allow their consciences to overrule their desire to bring the West into submission through death and destruction in an era where terrorist groups may have the potential to stage their own mini-Hiroshimas.
While these Islamofascistic groups battle for dominance in the Middle East our country blithely continues to defer addressing simmering issues that may one day mean the difference between our country literally being relegated to the status of a Third World country. Most Americans cannot imagine such a sudden diminution of status but those who experienced Hurricane Katrina have acquired a better understanding of how quickly the American way of life suddenly can disappear due to lack of preparedness.
"Not taking ideology seriously has hindered us from understanding the importance of what should have been – by, at the latest, the afternoon of September 11, 2001 – a major government effort: to rally the nation behind moving away from oil dependence. Not only are oil's vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks substantial and not only are we at the mercy of regime and policy changes in the turbulent Middle East, but we help fund the Wahhabis some $4 billion per year of hatred propagation every time we pull up to the gasoline pump."
Certainly, development of the oil resources available in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) would be a solid first step. The environmentalists who are so vigorous in opposition to ANWR should consider the cost of our heavy reliance on the Middle East.
The authors of the chapter on energy security, Dr. Gal Luft and Anne Korin, however, make clear that developing ANWR and our other domestic energy resources are not enough to achieve the long-term energy independence that is essential to our security. They advocate the development of alternative fuels, such as ethanol and methanol. That surely would conflict with free-market conservatives who would argue that the government had spent billions already with little results on developing alternative technologies. Nor does it account for the potential of the energy industry to improve existing technology to enable extraction of existing, but difficult to obtain, energy resources.
Unfortunately, the authors ignore serious consideration of increased public transportation as a method to help lessen public dependence upon fossil fuels while providing Americans with an efficient and economical way to travel. Light rail could provide commuters with comfort and quickness which buses cannot provide. Light rail also avoids the high construction costs associated with subway lines. Naturally, in and of itself, light rail is not the whole solution but it indeed can make a meaningful contribution to reducing dependence upon foreign oil.
Gaffney's book examines another pressing concern – an Electromagnetic Pulse attack. Many Americans were horrified by the devastation that Katrina wrought on the Gulf Coast. Imagine that a terrorist group or country such as Iran succeeds in exploding a nuclear warhead high above our country. The electromagnetic shock waves that shoot back to earth would incapacitate much of our technology.
Representatives Curt Weldon (R-PA) and Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-MD) explore the consequences of an Electromagnetic Pulse attack on our country in War Footing, reviewing the conclusions of a report commissioned by Congress which was released in 2004 but received little media attention.
Weldon and Bartlett warn that al-Qaida, North Korea and Iran are moving toward the capability of launching an EMP attack. They write that an explosion three hundred miles above the atmosphere could impact much of the continental United States and Canada. The resulting radio-frequency wave that is generated by the explosion would end up short-circuiting our power grid, ATMs and computers. Recovery could take months, even years.
Dr. Lowell Wood of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory has warned Congress that an EMP attack could thrust our country and its citizens back to a standard of living associated with the pre-Industrial Era. Fortunately, the report outlines steps needed to mitigate damage from such an attack, steps restated in the chapter by Weldon and Bartlett. Our country's leaders need to be more proactive in preparing our country to withstand such an attack.
A chapter on Latin America makes the point that CITGO Petroleum is owned by Venezuela and therefore every time an American fills up his gas tank with that brand he is helping fuel Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez' anti-American agenda. Gaffney, in fact, sounded an alarm about how Americans are investing in companies with strong links to evil regimes and terrorist groups. It's time for staging the patriotic equivalent of the "corporate campaigns" labor unions and environmentalists so proficiently run.
One concern addressed by the book hits home quite strongly with the conservative base. Not only is it common sense to address the problem but it would be good politics: To secure our country's borders. America needs to exert effective control over who is entering our country. Terrorist groups know our borders are porous and our enforcement too lax. We must take decisive steps to bulk up our Border Patrol and build a fence to make it more difficult for penetration along our Southern Border.
It absolutely is imperative that these steps be taken now; otherwise conservatives may not be motivated to turn out in this election. The risk is that the candidates elected will be those who will have no comprehension of the need to secure our borders.
Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy are devoted defenders of America and the West. Islamofascism is indeed a threat. While there is much to be done our country would be less prepared had it not been for the unrelenting, and often unappreciated efforts of Gaffney and CSP.
Gaffney's understandable zeal to protect our country from a repeat of 9/11 leads him to favor the USA PATRIOT Act without the appropriate checks and balances to help guard against the misuse of such powers. The odds are that these powers will remain law for a long period of time. Given the nature of bureaucracies the powers could either be used directly or to set legal precedents that would run contrary to our system of justice and its reliance on checks and balances.
Gaffney belongs to a group that wholeheartedly and, in my view, uncritically, endorses the PATRIOT Act and I belong to Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances, which seeks meaningful revisions. We are fighting to retain the freedom and liberty that has been the hallmark of our country for over two centuries; in the process of waging this war to prevail over radical Islam we must not allow our country's most important ideals to become a casualty of this War on Terror.
Slowly but surely over time the PATRIOT Act without effective checks and balances could end up eroding our constitutional liberties. The terrorists have drawn a bead on our liberties and thus, as Paul M. Weyrich wrote on September 11, 2001, their greatest victory would be to diminish our freedom and liberties. That said, Gaffney and his contributors have performed a patriotic service by writing this book, which lays out a multi-dimensional map as to how our country can remain strong and free in this new century.
Stephen M. Lilienthal is a research analyst at the Free Congress Foundation.
Buy War Footing at Amazon.com for only $18.45 (34% off)
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