January 5th, 2010
11:30 AM ET

Dear President Obama #351: The Monday morning quarterbacks of terrorism

Reporter's Note: President Obama is reviewing what went wrong with our defenses against that attempted terror attack over the holidays. Which means, of course, I’m reviewing my latest letter to Pennsylvania Avenue on that very subject.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TRAVEL/12/24/air.security.passengers/story.airport.file.gi.jpg width=300 height=169]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I don’t know a lot about preventing terrorism. Truth be told, I had a devil of a time just avoiding black eyes from the school bully in my younger days. But here are two things that I am pretty sure of:

1) We can’t always count on some athletic airplane passenger to tackle a would-be attacker at the last minute.

2) When it comes to stopping these lunatics, we’ve got to quit being so reactive, and start being more proactive.

I know, I know…that sounds like one of those snappy phrases people roll out when they are three deep into the cocktails and really have no idea how to go about solving a problem. But what I am saying is this: Often it seems as if our enemies are thinking on their feet, while moving on the battlefield; and we are thinking on our hind quarters, while sitting in conference rooms.

Time and again the pattern seems to be the same. They attack from some geographic place (like Afghanistan, for instance,) so we pound on that corner of the globe. They attack using airplanes, so we all start taking off our shoes and spreading out for total body scans. Presumably if they attacked using a raw tuna, we’d put screening stations in front of sushi restaurants. See what I mean? We constantly keep reacting to past attacks as if THAT is specifically what we have to prevent, and then we’re left shaking our heads and surprised to find that we missed something new coming at us from somewhere else.

There has got to be a better way, and I’m told there is.

Scads of security experts I have talked to over the years have said what we most need is better intelligence gathering and processing; better cooperation with the intelligence agencies of like-minded nations; more imagination about what might come our way; and one more thing…we need to keep security securely in the hands of professionals …with the politicians at a safe arm’s length. And they are talking about Democrats and Republicans, alike; anyone who would dare to play games with our safety in the name of cheap political gains.

I tend to think they are right. And I get nervous when critics of an Administration get too eager to seize the limelight; or that Administration acts too nervous about taking responsibility. Because neither course gets us closer to stopping our enemies, who are even now considering the next way that they might strike our homeland.

Best of luck with your deliberations about what we should do next. I don’t envy you the job. Although, I must say I envied that Hawaii getaway a bit. Ha! Call if you want to chew over some ideas.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Michael Durand

    There are many new ideas and even more to be discovered to prevent terrorist attacks. All ideas help to prevent terror are only a temporary fix." No-matter what " terror will always be a constant battle due to the fact that humans will always adapt and over come all circumstances put before them given time. Therefore we can only prevent and we will never be able to win this war against terror.

    January 5, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  2. V Wolsk, nyc

    i agree that prevention is the answer but until we pull our troops out of the middle east and stop trying to control the world by brute force, there will continue to be these violent acts against us. It's time for us as the supposed civilized leader of the world to heroically embrace peace and rationality. Obama started out with these ideals and is being pressured into the same old war/violence mode. His heroes were Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Mandella but now he is second-guessing them.

    January 5, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  3. thordur mocan Runars

    I totally agree with you when it comes to stopping these lunatics, we’ve got to quit being so reactive, and start being more proactive.

    I want to add that this not about religons, these terrorists are just lunatics that are being used by people that hate America and countries that care for their people.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Thordur Mocan Runars
    Editor of http://www.skintreatmentguide.com/

    January 5, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  4. Tim Gibson

    Can I use the Sotomayor defense is saying, that I may have a more clear opinion of insight as a strong gay male who has lived under different levels of acceptance in society looking over the fence from this side. I think we all haved learned that there are times when the best option is a strong defense, common junior high school style politics. And the threat of a "bully" is shut down or taken out so to say when you stand behind this wall of defense.

    Maintaining that wall of defense requires not only the strong arm, but the arm of knowledge. There is no room left in the waiting room for fear of any kind in addressing national security.

    January 5, 2010 at 9:16 am |