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Dr. Anthony Cordesman
CSIS Burke Chair in Strategy

U.S. Response

September 12, 2001


We are now in a period where there is a real risk that we can overreact and use the wrong words. We face a new level of terrorism, an attack on our homeland tantamount to war. We need to act decisively. But we also need to fully understand who is responsible and not simply blame Osama bin Laden or Iraq or whoever else is convenient.

We need to prepare. We cannot achieve anything in terms of deterrence if we simply strike at low-level perpetrators. If we are to succeed, we must attack and kill the leaders of the movements responsible. At the same time, we must know that full chain of responsibility, whether governments are really involved and who in those governments is involved.

We cannot simply lash out at another country like Afghanistan. We have to strike precisely. This means we have to rethink retaliation in our military operations and do so calmly and objectively.

Similarly, we cannot throw money at homeland defense or counterterrorism or simply try to defend against one type of attack. We need to have a comprehensive reassessment of how we budget and plan for homeland defense. We obviously need to change our priorities, but to do so, we need careful planning, and we need to be very, very sure that what we do is effective and is worth the cost both in dollars and out civil liberties. It is this need for careful evolution, which should be our response, not seeking some sudden fix or finding a scapegoat and attacking the wrong target.

Memo by Dr. John Hamre
Analysis by Dr. Simon Serfaty
Analysis by Dr. Shireen Hunter
Analysis by Mr. Daniel Benjamin
Analysis by Ms. Michèle Flournoy
Analysis by Dr. Anthony Cordesman

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