Academic journal article Military Review

AMERICA THE VULNERABLE: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism

Academic journal article Military Review

AMERICA THE VULNERABLE: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism

Article excerpt

AMERICA THE VULNERABLE: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism, Stephen Flynn, HarperCollins, New York, 2004, 178 pages, $13.95.

If there is a counterterrorism lesson to be learned from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, it is the importance of consequence management as an integral part of our homeland security strategy. We must be prepared to deal with catastrophes, whatever their origin.

A year before Katrina and several years post-9/11, Stephen E. Flynn addressed this issue and many others in America the Vulnerable: How our Government is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism. Flynn, a retired U.S. Coast Guard officer who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations, is now a senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In the chapter "The Next Attack," Flynn offers a series of hypothetical, but alarmingly feasible, terrorist ' actions that culminate in the detonation of a dirty bomb from inside a shipping container at a U.S. port. This detonation leaves the president with an unenviable choice: to inspect every incoming container, thus crippling the national economy, or reopen the national transportation network and hope there are no more bombs.

From this setup, Flynn argues that our government is failing to protect us from terrorism. To achieve effective homeland security in a resource-constrained world, he believes we must construct layers of security programs, including a capability to manage the effects of an unforeseen catastrophe. No single layer will offer ironclad protection, but in total they provide an effective deterrent. Flynn argues that a terrorist organization will "stake out [its] target, and if [it discovers that] the risk of detection is reasonably high or that the damage from a successful attack can be quickly contained, [the terrorists] will likely go back to the drawing board. …

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