One cardinal rule of special commission politics is that if you want to appear to be taking a public concern seriously without actually doing anything on the issue, propose creating a new related cabinet-level agency. By the way, am I the only one to notice the irony that while the 9/11 Commission concluded bureaucracy between the CIA and FBI was a problem during the September 11 attacks, it is proposing an entirely new layer of bureaucracy as the cure?
The Bush Administration also did this by recommending the "Department of Homeland Security" after the September 11 attacks. Now, the 9/11 Commission has proposed to create the second cabinet-level as a result of the 9/11 attacks, the "Department of Intelligence." I'm waiting for John Kerry to show those pikers at the 9/11 Commission how someone who really cares about protecting this country from terrorism would act. Surely, I expect he will propose, we need two new cabinet agencies for this issue. Only one more simply will not do.
Only in America could a country have both a "Department of Homeland Security" and a "Department of Defense" titles that mean exactly the same thing and a commission recommending a third cabinet-level agency charged with a related responsibility.
The Department of Defense used to defend the United States from outside attackers, but that job now falls to the Department of Homeland Security. At least I think it does, though the 9/11 Commission admitted that it's hard to tell for sure these days. The Department of Defense now primarily fights our nation's foreign wars. On that point, I'm certain.
Interestingly, the Department of Defense was originally called the "Department of War." But Congress changed that to the Department of Defense in 1947, because the Department of War was considered too warlike a title. Back when we had a Department of War, the United States only rarely fought wars — and Congress always gave the nation against whom we were fighting the courtesy of a declaration of war. Now we fight wars all the time using the Department of Defense, but we never declare them wars. That would sound too warlike, especially now, under times like now when President Bush says we are "at war." This explains why Congress did not declare war against Iraq and Afghanistan. Or does it? I'm not sure on that point, either.
But the point I'm coming to is that our Department of Defense has little to do with defense and a lot to do with offense — especially under the Bush Doctrine of "preemption." How about renaming the two departments to the "Department of Defense" and the "Department of Offense"? We could complete the football analogy by calling the new cabinet agency the "Department of Special Teams," though an "Intelligent Defense Department" would be more of a change for the better if we could prevent it from becoming an oxymoron.
But I digress.
The 9/11 Commission undoubtedly offered some helpful suggestions on the margins of the terrorism issue. On the critical issues, however, issues where we could actually stop terrorism, they passed the buck. The 9/11 bombers all had several things in common. Yes, they were all Muslims. But also, none of them were born here. Instead of actually securing our borders and closely tracking legal immigrants from Muslim countries, the 9/11 Commission decided to pretend it is dealing with the issue by creating a cabinet-level spy agency just like every other police state throughout history. Hitler had the Gestapo and the Soviet Union had the KGB. America will have … whatever Congress decides to call it.
Instead of getting control of our borders and tracking likely terrorists, the 9/11 Commission has instead concluded that "Americans should not be exempt from carrying biometric passports or otherwise enabling their identities to be securely verified when they enter the United States" and "secure identification should begin in the United States." If only we will give up a little of our freedom, they tell us, we will be safe. Actually, they didn't say that in so many words. Like many who would take away our freedoms, the 9/11 Commissioners used the soothing language of finding a "balance" between freedom and security. But the balance of the weight of new regulations and restrictions under the 9/11 Commission recommendations would be borne by Americans inside the United States, and not by immigrants — guests in our national home — at the national borders.
I should point out that as long as we fail to control our borders and have millions of illegal immigrants in the United States, a huge domestic spy apparatus to snoop into the lives of Americans will be necessary.
The 9/11 Commissioners did not recommend a "balance" between freedom and security. The reality is that historically, no nation that has given up its freedom has been safe. And that's what the 9/11 Commission recommendations will give us: no security and less freedom. Oh, and a really spiffy new cabinet agency named the "Department of National Intelligence." After all, they are so smart in Washington.
August 4, 2004