Book Reviews/Recensions De Livre

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Book Reviews

Recensions de livre

America the vulnerable: How our government is failing to protect us from terrorism Stephen Flynn (2004). New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 256 pages ISBN 0060571284 (hardcover)

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC, demonstrated that the United States is not immune to international terrorism. In response to the September 11 attacks, the U.S. reorganized its national government by combining 22 Federal agencies to create the Department of Homeland Security and implemented a broad array of domestic and international policies intended to help prevent or reduce future acts of terrorism. These policies gave the U.S. government powers ranging from the right to review a person's library use to the right to review how transportation firms provide supply chain security. Stephen Flynn's goals in America the Vulnerable are to provide an assessment of America's efforts to improve its domestic security and a framework that the U.S. government and others can follow to further improve their security efforts. Flynn's target audience is the average U.S. resident.

Dr. Stephen Flynn is a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer, and former staff member of the National Security Council. He argues that the U.S. government is failing to protect its citizens from terrorism. This argument is composed of several assertions that flow from a fundamental premise that it is only a matter of time before terrorists launch another attack on the U.S. His first assertion is that America is fighting its international war on terror at the expense of its domestic security. His second is that despite making homeland security a priority the U.S remains dangerously vulnerable to terrorist attack. His third is that the private sector will not voluntarily take the action needed to improve America's security. His final one is that the U.S. government must assume an active leadership role in facilitating the institutional coordination between the government, the private sector, and the general public that is required to achieve an acceptable level of homeland security.

The formulation and implementation of U.S. homeland security policy, between 2001 and 2004, tended to be very disjointed, technically nuanced, and virtually impossible for well educated individuals to follow. Flynn provides a brief summary of the issues that America's homeland security efforts addressed between 2001 and 2004. He states that despite good intentions the U.S. government still has not adequately protected its citizens from terrorism. He, however, cautions that U.S. government must be careful that, in its rush to achieve security, it does not implement policies that do more harm then good. This is a very important point because, as a result of the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has intervened in American and international economies in ways that it previously did not. Flynn contends that, in order for the U.S. to achieve an adequate level of security, it must facilitate institutional cooperation between governments and the private sector. Flynn's work provides a general summary of America's homeland security policies; however, he acknowledges that more in-depth research needs to be brought to bear on the issue.

A major shortcoming of Flynn's work is that it does not define homeland security. A good definition would help shift the current policy debate to issues that may have a significant impact on improving America's homeland security. Economics provides us with a definition of homeland security. It can be argued that homeland security is a public good that benefits not only the United States, but also other nations that might suffer from a terrorist attack on the U.S. A public good is one whose consumption by one nation does not exclude consumption by other nations that did not pay for it. Public goods tend to be a reflection of a nation's social values, which are often hard to define, let alone measure. …