The real key to homeland security, says Amory Lovins, has nothing to do with regime change in Iraq or destroying Al Qaeda. It?s all about using our resources more efficiently.
The co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, who is noted for conceptualizing the idea of ?soft path? technology in the 1970s, argued in a January 2002 speech at the National Defense University that the conventional approach to defending our borders in the wake of 9/11 is ultimately futile. ?It?s . . . now very clear that you can?t effectively guard an open society, especially one that has [saddled] itself with alarming vulnerabilities, built up over decades,? he said in the address, reprinted in Whole Earth (Fall 2002). Those weak points include our water supplies, wastewater treatment facilities, telecommunications and financial infrastructures, and transportation systems, which, if disabled, ?can make a large city uninhabitable pretty quickly.?
Rather than employing a Cold War?era response to terrorism, Lovins suggests, we should shift our attention to a new model that recognizes the ?tripolar society? that now dominates geopolitics. This new new world order consists of governments, global corporations, and civil society. Approaching national security issues based on the outmoded assumption that governments are the axis of power in the world is, he says, ?dangerously incomplete and obsolete.?
Prevention is the only lasting and effective defense against the hatred that fuels anti-American terrorism, Lovins adds. It?s the only strategy that requires no threat of violence; and it?s the only one that actually saves taxpayer dollars.
At the center of Lovins? approach is the notion that it is a safer world when no large group of people is without basic needs (food, shelter, energy). To that end, he stresses increased U.S. foreign aid as a pivotal part of any national security strategy. The cost of providing clean water, sanitation, basic health care, adequate nutrition, and education for every person on earth has been estimated by the United Nations to be about $40 billion a year. That?s less than what the United States spends on its anti-terrorism programs, he notes?and it?s less than a quarter of the tax cut passed by Congress last year. Such a modest investment?applied to nations equitably and without political strings attached ?could go a long way toward calming social and political unrest throughout the world, and toward mending America?s battered reputation.
This strategy ties into Lovins? three-pronged approach to protecting Americans from attack:
- Conflict avoidance/prevention. Lovins stresses ?justice, hope, transparency, tolerance, and honest government? as the most cost-effective ways to maintain our national security?a strategey he calls ?presponse.? By sincerely promoting these values around the world, the United States can prevent regional conflicts, which often threaten American interests. War and terrorism can also be prevented by more effective use of global resources, which can help people attain a decent life without consuming massive amounts of contested commodities such as fossil fuels and fresh water.
- Conflict resolution. If conflict cannot be avoided, the United States must be more willing to use international avenues of mediation, such as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice, to prevent armed hostilities.
- Nonprovocative defense. Lovins points to Sweden?s military as a model of a powerful but strictly defensive force. Its artillery cannot be fired beyond Sweden?s territorial waters, its aircraft are designed for short-range deployment, and its radio frequencies are incompatible with those of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. ?They?ve sought to make Sweden a country you don?t want to attack,? Lovins explains. ?This approach can ultimately create a [situation where] each side?s defense is stronger than the other side?s offense.?
Lovins admits that such a defensive approach would not stop a small-scale terrorist strike. Of course, neither would a national missile defense system. But taken together, a national defense strategy that embraces humanitarian aid, more effective use of resources, conflict mediation, and a powerful defense would certainly take the United States a lot further down the road toward true security than our current strategy, which promises nothing but an endless war against an endless succession of enemies.