Point counterpoint: Examining U.S. position in the War on Terror (Gurr)

Recent bombings in Madrid should serve as an upsetting reminder to Americans: The threat of terrorism is real and there are major flaws in President Bush’s approach to homeland security. He just hasn’t done enough.

To date, Bush’s tactics have been exceptionally inadequate. Terrorist attacks exposed gaping holes in U.S. security. After Sept. 11, the country was devastated and in desperate need of a meaningful response. The Bush administration’s main reaction to American demands for answers was to create a color-coded alert system.

The fight against terrorism is real and different colored flashcards are not the answer. When it comes to homeland security, Bush spends so much time talking about his support that he hasn’t given any of it to actually protect the country. His inaction is more than foolish-it’s dangerous and it leaves the nation vulnerable. Al-Qaida will exploit any American weakness it can find-and there are many.

North Korea has nuclear weapons and other rogue nations could be acquiring them. Though the nations themselves pose a threat, their possession is especially perilous because they could be selling weapons to anybody, including terrorist groups.

Other countries have alarming amounts of weapons material that remain unaccounted for: Russia has lost track of much of its highly enriched uranium and South Africa stockpiled countless chemical weapons that are now in private hands.

Bush’s unilateral approach to the war in Iraq has strengthened anti-American sentiment worldwide and his arrogance is damaging American reputation and credibility when it urgently needs international support. When the United States could really use friends, Bush goes out of his way to make enemies.

Instead of focusing on risk and prevention, Bush turns the discussion from policy to politics, blaming liberals for America’s lack of preparation. The United States is susceptible to another terrorist attack at any time and the president’s time and efforts should be focused on solving the problem instead of trash-talking opponents.

Bush is sabotaging national security efforts at home and abroad. He continues to reduce funding for homeland defense-that means he’s taking money from airport security, firefighters, police officers and countless other safety sectors, all priceless components of an effective fight against terrorism, all undermined by Bush’s lack of support. And to talk about funding cuts in terms of “fiscal responsibility” is a joke: Bush’s proposed tax cut was $726 billion, several hundred times larger than any proposed homeland security funding.

Increased funding is not the only answer, but it’s an indispensable part of reforming such an ineffective security system. Underfunding is a considerable part of the problem, but a more important aspect is finding a basic approach that will make Americans safer and the Bush administration has failed there, too. A mere rearrangement of government bureaucracies will not protect the United States.

The federal government can safeguard Americans from future attacks by identifying areas of vulnerability and then defending those areas as well as possible.

America deserves a president who will invest its resources into guarding borders, bridges, ports and power plants. As president, Bush needs to prepare the public and emergency responders to counter attacks effectively. He should be doing everything possible to prevent proliferation of weapons material while increasing communication.

Instead, Bush’s approach is to use patriotic language to convince the public he knows what he’s doing. He changes the color of the alert level occasionally, while cutting funding and refusing to take basic action that will protect borders and prevent attacks. Thanks to the Bush administration’s inadequate approach to homeland security, the United States remains as vulnerable as ever.

The attacks in Spain should remind Americans that Bush has not done enough to protect the country from future attacks. The United States deserves a leader who will recognize weakness, then take steps to fortify the nation-both areas in which Bush has failed miserably.

[email protected]