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01/21/2006

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J.

I've often thought the Maginot Line analogy also worked for the White House's national biodefense strategy, such that it is. Here we have a tri-fold effort - BioWatch, with detectors in 30 cities, BioShield, trying to buy med countermeasures (which won't be available for 10 years or so), and BioSurveillance, trying to link all the labs - and each one is not sufficiently funded to support a national effort.

Instead of spreading ourselves so thin, if there is a desire for a "national biodefense strategy," maybe the strategy ought to be one of a defense in depth - funding the betterment of the public health infrastructure and working on increased medical surveillance and response. Considering the low probability of the threat and the billions of dollars a national effort costs, it seems like a better alternative.

No Nym

I generally like (okay, I really admire your work) your blog, but I have to say your comparison of what is essentially an offensive strategy to a past failed defensive strategy is both misleading and a bit tendentious.

The Maginot Line succeeded brilliantly, in that it was never really attacked. I think Luttwak even made your main point, the perimeter defense is not merely constrained by resources but also politics. It is generally the weakest, operationally, but the smartest, strategically.

That said, I don't see how you can compare shoddy information gathering to any kind of perimeter defense. To my eye, this looks like an elastic defense in the crisis stage: the perimeter is breached and we have lost contact with the (covert) enemy units. Where is the enemy? Where to apply our reserves?

One might argue that a proper homeland defense ought to be in depth, by reinforcing first responders and having ready reaction forces to move in (be it military, LEO, or aid). To an extent I agree this would be a good thing, but any candidate running on the platform that perimeter breaches are inevitable and perimeter defenses are thus a waste of time would lose handily.

What you gain in dispensing with the annoying and ineffectual TSA you lose in electoral credibility.

I also wonder if you disagree with the "lily pad" forward concept generally (since you seem to value minimizing boots on the ground for many reasons, the lily pad saves money and potentially increases mobility), or merely in its current incarnation of using conventional units in a counterinsurgency mode. i.e., if you had infinite dollars and total command authority, what "transformations" would you make to the present force? Divide into conventional heavy/mixed units plus a "colonial" counterinsurgency force, or dispense w/ the conventional forces altogether, or what?

I like your counterinsurgency series, but your invocation of Maginot seems a bit strained.

Michael J. O'Neill

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