by James J.F. Forest, Ph.D.
February 11, 2017
How does an effective system of security work in the real world, beyond political and media punditry? Ask a professional in law enforcement, military or the intelligence community and you’ll hear an overwhelmingly common response: security is built and maintained on relationships of trust, at every level. Healthy, trusted community and police relationships are key to maintaining peace and order, and for intelligence gathering on crime and security threats. Trust is critical for interagency cooperation and information sharing between local, state and federal agencies. At the national level, the different agencies and branches of government must trust each other implicitly in order to work together toward the overall common objective of ensuring security for the the nation and its interests. And at the international level, trusted relationships are vital for military cooperation, intelligence sharing, cross-national crime and terror investigations, diplomacy, economic security, energy security, cybersecurity, and so much more. These are all components of an effective security system for any country.
A quick caveat before I continue, as a response to some angry messages I have received from Trump supporters. The criticisms that I have shared publicly over the past few weeks about the current presidential administration and its policies have nothing to do with being against one political party or in favor of another. I have always registered to vote as an independent, and I much prefer discussions that focus on data, evidence and academic objectivity over politicized debates. My criticisms are based on what I have learned about effective counterterrorism (and security writ large), and my concerns over policy decisions that may result in our being less secure over time. There are two main themes in my criticisms: 1) the lack of real operational effectiveness and the potential damage this approach may have on our overall national security objectives; and 2) the rhetoric which is being utilized by some members of the administration (and supporters, including some in the media) in their attempts to justify these policies. Both of these areas of concern threaten to undermine critical relationships and trust on different levels, as described below.