The United States should look to Israeli counterterrorism to help change its own flawed policy, according to Lawrence A. Husick, senior fellow at the Center on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
"Why can't we learn from Israel?" posed Husick, who is also an adjunct professor of graduate-level business classes at the University of Pennsylvania. "[Israelis] are forced to confront this issue every hour of every day."
Husick spoke to members of the Philadelphia chapter of Volunteers for Israel, a group that sends Jews to Israel for three weeks to assist in maintenance on non-combative Israel Defense Force bases. They may also fill in at hospitals or nursing homes during their stay. The 40 or so members who attended the Oct. 18 event at the Klein JCC in the Northeast already had at least one experience in Israel.
Husick told the group that American counterterrorism policy is retroactive. For example, the government banned sharp objects in carry-on luggage only after they were used in the 9/11 attacks, and then banned liquids on flights only after England had foiled terrorist plans to enter airplanes with the liquid materials to make a bomb on board.
The government "slams the door after the horse is already gone," he said.
Instead, Husick argued, officials should try to emulate procedures by the Israeli airline El Al, which he calls "the safest airline in the world."
And he said that "it has nothing to do with keeping bad things off airplanes."
Rather than just randomly searching passengers, Husick noted that Israeli officials profile for would-be terrorists from the time men and women walk into the airport — a policy that he said would be tough to implement in a society that stresses political correctness.
"Not all Muslims are bent on jihad," he admitted, "but all people bent on jihad are Muslim."
While he criticized the government's security measures, he did admit that since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, hundreds of potential plots against the United States — in various stages of implementation — have been thwarted. So doesn't that mean American counterterrorism efforts are working?
"The appropriate question to ask is not 'We haven't been attacked, aren't we winning?' " he said, "but 'What kind of attack takes five years to plan?' "
Husick pointed to terrorist activities in Iraq, as well as the recent bombings in London and Madrid, as proof that the enemy has not gone away since Sept. 11.
"In fighting terrorism," he continued, "we have to be right all the time; they have to be right [just] once."
'Far More Committed'
Husick also stressed that while American troops are at war in Afghanistan and Iraq, many civilians are not very conscious that they are at war. Fundamentalist Muslims, on the other hand, believe that the West is on a crusade against Islam; they remain "far more committed," he insisted, "than any Communist during the Cold War."
When an audience member asked Husick how best to battle would-be terrorists, he responded by saying that the United States should look to Israel's particular use of special-force operatives in fighting terror. "In Israel, they identify threats quickly and, for the most part, secretly," he said after the event.
Husick was quick to point out that in his estimation, American special forces do a great job — but the problem is that there are simply not enough of them.
If the government used them more, he said, "the word would get around, and the word would be: Don't mess with the Americans!"