By the second anniversary of the attack on America, the United States had invaded and occupied two Islamic nations, created an Orwellian-sounding new bureaucracy, launched a spending spree of unprecedented proportions, and was systematically shredding international law and our own Constitution. Despite our frenzy, or in many cases because of it, the problem we sought to address, violent Islamist extremism, was getting worse. Much of what our government did after 9/11, at home and abroad, departed from our values and identity as a nation. It was also massively counterproductive. Our government failed us before and after 9/11, and it continues to do so today.
Indeed, as this book unfolds you will see how I believe that we have been failing at important national security missions for a long time. Sometimes, as perhaps proved by the end of the Cold War, we succeed despite ourselves, like a student who makes it by even with some failing grades and incompletes. But the failures are piling high and we are not correcting them; in some cases we are making them worse. And there are new challenges that, like al Qaeda before 9/11, we know are coming and are not addressing sufficiently or successfully. Though al Qaeda still exists and is growing stronger, there are new risks in cyberspace and from climate change. What is wrong that we cannot become sufficiently motivated and agreed as a nation to address known threats before they become disasters? Why do we accept costly chronic problems whose cumulative effects are far greater than those of the well-known disasters?
This book is my attempt to understand what happened after 9/11 and answer the larger question of why the U.S. government, despite all of its resources, performs so poorly at national security. The problems lie in how we as a nation have decided to conduct the process of national security, from problem identification and analysis, through policy development and implementation, to oversight and accountability. We have allowed the role of partisan politics to expand and that of professional public sector management to atrophy. As a result, we repeatedly misdiagnose the problems we face and prescribe the wrong cures. In this volume, to attempt to diagnose the problems accurately, we will sometimes go back in history before 9/11. We will sometimes go forward to see what effects changing technologies and continuing policies will have. I will attempt to suggest what we might do differently to address the unique and cross-cutting problems in a set of related and vital national security disciplines:
The conduct of sustained, large-scale, complex operations, such as Iraq
The collection and analysis of national security information by the "intelligence community"
Dealing with violent Islamist extremism, or "the global war on terrorism"
Domestic security risk management, or "homeland security"
Global climate change and national energy policy including the security effects
The migration of control systems and records into the unsafe environment of networked systems, or "cyberspace security"