Hope, Fear and Objectivity in National Security: Obama and Chertoff

Whether or not Barack Obama was your candidate of choice, his Presidency has ushered in a positive response from around the globe. His supporters call this the politics of hope. And, it is in direct opposition to the outgoing US President Bush who’s political tactics are called the politics of fear.

Fear and hope appear to be diametrically opposed emotions, both of which appear to radicalize a truth to the point of absurdity. When dealing with matters of US national security, truthful dialog around terrorism and terrorist attacks are at the center of the public debate. The politics of fear tell us that a terrorist attack is imminent; the politics of hope tell us that such terror attacks are overblown. Each appears justified to some extent. On one hand the US has enemies that seek to do us harm. On other hand, the US has not seen a major terrorist attack on it’s homeland since September 11, 2001.

The questions that lies before us: what is the true risk of being attacked on our homeland by terrorists? If such an attack were to occur, what kind of damage is likely to be expected given the range of tactics at a terrorist’s disposal? How do we speak of serious issues with devastating consequences accurately while at the same time not politically downplaying or propagandizing threats? In short, which arguments are valid and which are not?

Yesterday CNN reported that Chertoff warned of an increasing vulnerability and possible terrorist attack during the transition of power from one administration to another.  Warren Axelrod, in his post on Security in Times of Crisis, notes on information security breaches:

While I have no specific evidence that the disruptions taking place throughout the economy have lead to security compromises, I would be really surprised if they had not.

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