Just as my personal history taught me that government can work, there are many people today whose formative experiences have produced a different conclusion. Few young people today think of government service as a high calling or as something they would want to do. When they do think of government, they envision a wasteful, incompetent, muscle-bound behemoth, damaging all it touches. They envision the calamity we have made of Iraq, the images of Americans demeaned in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They recall the repeated intelligence failures and botched law enforcement efforts. They may recall the ineffective "War on Drugs" or picture our porous borders. They know of the continued growth of the terrorist movement and the contempt with which America is held in much of the world.
Something has happened. Government has ceased to work well, not just in the well-known failures but almost across the board in the area of national security. There seems to be an inability to get anything done, to successfully tackle any major issue. Democrats attribute the problems to one cause, the presidency of George W. Bush. But the causes go well beyond the personalities of incumbent officials. There is a pattern of incompetence and a lack of achievement running throughout the components of national security: homeland security, intelligence, defense, foreign policy, federal law enforcement, energy policy, and the "war on terrorism." These failures are important because, despite the exaggeration and hype often used by government officials, there are serious threats and important issues that only the federal government can address. Failure to deal successfully with these issues can mean the deaths of thousands of people and the waste of trillions of dollars, as we have just tragically witnessed.
The United States spends more than a trillion dollars a year on national security, running up a national debt that could, combined with health care and retirement costs, burden the next generation and stifle economic growth in this country. For that amount of money—indeed, for less—the American people should get far better results. Moreover, the culture of mediocrity that is asserting itself in our national security apparatus increases the likelihood of further calamitous failures, with the personal pain and suffering that will mean for Americans and others.
I am not inherently a pessimist; quite the opposite. I know government has worked in these areas in the past, and I believe it can again, if we can identify what has gone wrong in each area and across the board and if we can devise initiatives and programs to overcome the entropy and decay that has set in. This book contains my contribution to thinking about those remedial initiatives and programs. I hope it will stimulate further contributions and debate, as well as increasing the basic recognition that there is a systemic problem in how America conducts national security.
For if we continue to operate as we do now, many more government officials will sit before investigatory panels. Many more will have to say to victims and their loved ones, "Your government failed you."