Four years have passed since America's rude awakening to the threat of terrorism. Since that time, billions have been spent on recovery and then protection. We have seen a massive expansion of the federal government with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. The USA PATRIOT Act, which gives law enforcement agencies unparalleled access into our personal lives, has been passed and renewed. Armed U.S. Marshals guard our planes, and no sneaker, however foul, goes unchecked by airport security. But one salient fact remains: We are not prepared.
That is the lesson Mother Nature has taught us. All our planning, all our training, all our spending has been for naught. Hurricane Katrina has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that the government is utterly unprepared to follow through on its most sacred duty: to ensure the safety of the American public. The ineptitude of our officials—local, state and federal alike—is nothing less than an invitation to al Qaeda and anyone else who would do us harm.
Despite the furious denials and spin, responsibility rests at the top. We have had five years of tough talk, homespun folksiness and missions accomplished. How much better off are we for all of it?
Perhaps it's time to get someone in the White House who's serious in his (or her?) concern for America and Americans. Talking a good game means nothing if it's not backed up by action. We need someone with the wisdom to formulate a coherent vision for the future and the humility to accept responsibility for failures to achieve this vision. We need a president, once again, who says "the buck stops here," and means it.
Step forward, wherever you are. Peace with insecurity cannot last. Either the insecurity goes, or else the peace. It's up to us.
Originally published as Peace and Insecurity in Our Time