George Will

Many Democrats, uneasy about supporting the war, may try to flank Republicans on the right by throwing money at homeland security. Much of that money would go not to fight wars, which fracture Democratic unity, but to largely Democratic constituencies--big-city mayors, and to unionized police, firefighters and other ``first responders.'' Democrats can always outbid Republicans in a spending contest, risking only bigger deficits, which they will blame on Republicans anyway.

Cox says prevention, not increasing the number of fire trucks and first responders, should be the top priority of federal homeland security policy, and is economical: Intelligence is cheaper than cleaning up the damage from attacks. The federal government's intelligence apparatus is a $40 billion asset. The Homeland Security Department's job is not to have its own intelligence operation, but to analyze and distribute intelligence so that immigration, customs and border officials have a better idea of what they should be looking for.

Clarke, invited to speculate about terrorists' ideas for targeting U.S. homeland security, says that if al Qaeda has a dozen terrorists to strike the U.S. economy, instead of putting teams of four on airplanes, it might do more damage just by placing one bomb at a dozen shopping malls. Or a bomb in Las Vegas. ``No tourism, no city,'' says Clarke. He says al Qaeda likes spectacular effects and, because U.S. airline security has substantially improved, it is known to have been talking about hijacking three Asian airliners and crashing them into the pens for nuclear submarines at Pearl Harbor.

He says terrorism will be defeated with the help of friendly intelligence services, perhaps Jordan's and Morocco's, putting sleeper agents into al Qaeda. Meanwhile, he worries about the radicalization of portions of the Arab community in the United States, in part by the preaching of Islamic extremism in U.S. prisons. And he worries about how little we still know about what the former Soviet Union's biological weapons programs developed, such as new strains of diseases resistant to antidotes America has developed, and what has been done with them.

Clarke and Cox are both accomplished worriers. These men and this moment are well-matched.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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