Genuine National Security

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
(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

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
  • 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.

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