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  • Author: Stephen Flynn
  • Publication Date: 05-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: The United States has made a mess of homeland security. This is hardly surprising. The policymakers responsible for developing homeland security policy in the wake of September 11, 2001, did so under extraordinary conditions and with few guideposts. The Bush administration's emphasis on combating terrorism overseas meant that it devoted limited strategic attention to the top-down law enforcement and border-focused efforts of the federal departments and agencies assigned new homeland security responsibilities. President Barack Obama has largely continued his predecessor's policies, and congressional oversight has been haphazard. As a result, nearly a decade after al Qaeda struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Washington still lacks a coherent strategy for harnessing the nation's best assets for managing risks to the homeland -- civil society and the private sector. For much of its history, the United States drew on the strength of its citizens in times of crisis, with volunteers joining fire brigades and civilians enlisting or being drafted to fight the nation's wars. But during the Cold War, keeping the threat of a nuclear holocaust at bay required career military and intelligence professionals operating within a large, complex, and highly secretive national security establishment. The sheer size and lethality of U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals rendered civil defense measures largely futile. By the time the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed, two generations of Americans had grown accustomed to sitting on the sidelines and the national security community had become used to operating in a world of its own. To an extraordinary extent, this same self-contained Cold War-era national security apparatus is what Washington is using today to confront the far different challenge presented by terrorism. U.S. federal law enforcement agencies, the border agencies, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are subsumed in a world of security clearances and classified documents. Prohibited from sharing information on threats and vulnerabilities with the general public, these departments' officials have become increasingly isolated from the people that they serve.
  • Topic: Cold War, Development
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Soviet Union
  • Author: William McCants
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: On 9/11, the global jihadist movement burst into the world's consciousness, but a decade later, thanks in part to the Arab Spring and the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is in crisis. With Western-backed dictators falling, al Qaeda might seem closer than ever to its goal of building Islamic states. But the revolutions have empowered the group's chief rivals instead: Islamist parliamentarians, who are willing to use ballots, not bombs.
  • Topic: Cold War, Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, Soviet Union, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Mitchel B. Wallerstein
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Foreign Affairs
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: Since the early days of the Cold War, the United States has restricted the export of certain advanced technologies and the sharing of sensitive scientific and technical information with foreign nationals. Initially, these restrictions were justified on the grounds that the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies were engaged -- through fronts, third parties, and outright espionage -- in a systematic effort to buy or steal information, technology, and equipment developed in the West that they could then use in their own military systems. Because Soviet industry could not design or produce certain high-tech products, such as personal computers or sophisticated machine tools, the Soviets were forced to obtain them by other means. By successfully denying technology to the Soviet Union, the United States enabled NATO to maintain a strategic and tactical advantage without having to match the Warsaw Pact nations' troop strength in the field. Yet 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and long after the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the same system of export controls remains in place. It has only become more arcane and ineffective with time. U.S. export controls have survived largely because of outdated "fortress America" thinking -- the view that the United States is the primary source of most militarily useful scientific ideas and products and that it can continue to deny technology to potential adversaries without seriously damaging the global competitiveness of U.S. companies or, in the end, jeopardizing national security. In an earlier era, when the United States was far more economically and technologically dominant, the costs associated with a technology-denial strategy were easier to absorb. But in today's highly competitive world, the business lost due to export controls poses a threat to the well-being of key U.S. industries; estimated losses range as high as $9 billion per year.
  • Topic: NATO, Cold War
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Soviet Union