Sleep Well: Coastline Security “Seriously Flawed” (UPDATE)

posted at 5:35 pm on September 10, 2007 by see-dubya

One of the depressing things about “homeland security” broadly defined is that it’s so elusive. If we choke off a threat at one point, our enemies will start probing for another weakness. Even if we do manage to build a fence on the border and get the visa process and airline security into reasonable shape, jihadists are going to look around for another place to get in and attack us. The logical place is the coastline.

Before the Mexican border became the preferred crossing point, much of the cocaine coming into America came through the Caribbean (in fact some have argued that the Coast Guard’s successful clampdown on stopping planes and boats into Florida caused the bulk of the smuggling industry to relocate into Mexico.) It’s also worth remembering that probably the only invasion of our mainland by enemy saboteurs during wartime happened on the coast.

Writing for the US Naval Institute’s magazine, Proceedings, (free registration required) retired Coast Guard Captain Robert C. Bennett has a look at what we’re doing and a few ideas about what ought to be done. Counter-mine sweeps, tracking small craft, and identifying likely targets like fuel depots are good ideas. Allowing foreign sailors off the ships for shore leave is less convincing, but he makes an interesting argument:

Unfortunately, the approach taken by MHS agencies appears to protect the ports from the merchant marine. Too many law enforcers tend to consider these merchant sailors as perpetrators or suspects. One particularly egregious manifestation of this policy restricts seamen from shore leave. While the restrictive security measures applied to merchant seamen has become acceptable, the application of similar restrictions to the many alien nationals among us—legal and illegal—including some who profess sympathy for the enemy, has not.

He also raises an interesting exit question: Physically, where does the war on terror switch from a war footing to a law-enforcement footing?

The problem may rest with our national policy of treating the war on terrorism as a law enforcement effort rather than a military campaign. In this strange war, we’ve come to consider our enemies as perpetrators, not non-uniformed combatants. Of course solid legal and bureaucratic reasons dictate this law enforcement approach, at least domestically. Given the natural flavor of law enforcement—respond to a reported crime, arrest the perpetrators, and bring them to justice—the MHS emphasis on first response is understandable. Nevertheless, waging a real war involves the application of many doctrines and behaviors that fall beyond the boundaries of conventional law enforcement. That’s why Soldiers are not police, and vice versa.

Law enforcement operations tend to be reactive while military operations, even when defensive, are proactive. In war, the goal is to annihilate the enemy or, at the least, neutralize whatever threats he might present. Thus, the importance of MHS proactive deterrence emerges because it serves to prevent the enemy from achieving a position from which he may successfully launch an attack on our maritime homeland.

See-Dub says check it out. It’s an overlooked but critical part of the big picture, especially since Iran (and by extension, Hezbollah) are gaining expertise in small-scale (but politically effective) maritime warfare.

ONE MORE THING: While you’re there, look at the pictures. Especially the one of the Iraqi tugboat with this caption:

BANG-IN-A-DRUM An Iraqi tug captured in 2003 carrying mines concealed in a “cargo” of 55-gallon oil drums could easily be the prototype for a makeshift minelayer to infiltrate U.S. waters.

UPDATE: Chertoff testified on the Hill today about DHS readiness, and “the threat of a USS Cole-type attack on U.S. ports — where a small boat packed with explosives detonates in a harbor — is one of his top concerns.”


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As a Canadian infantry reservist, I did a joint anti-terrorism with your Marine Corps FAST (Fleet Anti-Terroism Security Teams), plus the people in your navy who guard your boomers (Nuke missile boats) whoever they are.

Lemme just say… guarding a coastline or port is tough. Very hard.

I was on the defense with your Marines and navy, but another detachment from my unit was on the offense and they got through and achieved success. A lot.

And that was point defense. Guarding a long coast line in general is much more difficult.

Which explains the principle behind the idea of those people who just say to “secure” the entire Mexican border or the border between Iran and Iraq are smoking too much of the Peyote.

Strategic success is achieved through other means.

Christoph on September 10, 2007 at 5:38 PM

Agreed up to a point, Christoph. Perfect security and an impenetrable border is a pipe dream. So is a burglar-proof home. If somebody really wants into my house, they’ll find a way.

But I still lock the door when I go out. If I make it hard enough to get in, it makes it less inviting. It raises the cost and risks for breaking in. And it deters all but the most determined burglars.

see-dubya on September 10, 2007 at 5:45 PM

I’ve heard it stated that when Iran/whoever is ready to nuke us, they won’t need missiles or bombers.. all they need is some boats and simply float the nuke next to their target … be it the Pacific Coast, Atlantic Coast or anywhere along the Great Lakes.

VinceP1974 on September 10, 2007 at 5:45 PM

If we choke off a threat at one point, our enemies will start probing for another weakness. Even if we do manage to build a fence on the border and get the visa process and airline security into reasonable shape, jihadists are going to look around for another place to get in and attack us.

We need a modern day Vauban.

Bad Candy on September 10, 2007 at 5:46 PM

Yes, you have to harden defences to a degree. After all, that was the point of the pre-9/11 exercise I mentioned.

But by itself you never have enough manpower, the enemy always has the initiative, and it plain can’t be done physically.

So you take such defensive measures… with the understanding that even if your country or coastline is breached, which you can’t stop in all cases, you are there to strike back.

Christoph on September 10, 2007 at 5:47 PM

Despite the temptation I will resist all the possible jokes about ‘restricted seamen.’

Thomas the Wraith on September 10, 2007 at 5:50 PM

Venezuela to buy Russian submarines.

Hugo to do some probing as well, with Ivan’s help.

JiangxiDad on September 10, 2007 at 5:58 PM

Perfect security and an impenetrable border is a pipe dream.

Alow me to add… Without a perceived “infringement of rights” that the left will complain about, much like in our airports.

It’s completely possible to do. And full of inconvienences.

Mazztek on September 10, 2007 at 6:20 PM

As a Canadian infantry reservist, I did a joint anti-terrorism with your Marine Corps FAST (Fleet Anti-Terroism Security Teams), plus the people in your navy who guard your boomers (Nuke missile boats) whoever they are.

Lemme just say… guarding a coastline or port is tough. Very hard.

I was on the defense with your Marines and navy, but another detachment from my unit was on the offense and they got through and achieved success. A lot.

And that was point defense. Guarding a long coast line in general is much more difficult.

Which explains the principle behind the idea of those people who just say to “secure” the entire Mexican border or the border between Iran and Iraq are smoking too much of the Peyote.

Strategic success is achieved through other means.

Christoph on September 10, 2007 at 5:38 PM

May I sugest that when commenting on a topic you leave the cross references to old threads out. This otherwise outstanding comment turned into a derisive argumentitive rant with the inclusion of the last two sentences. I’m sure you will do as you like but if you want to break the stereotype we have of Canadians, here is your chance to become an ambassador of goodwill and a uniter at the same time. After all there has been much made in the media about the Canadian citizenry’s dislike for the Commander in Chief of our armed forces. Otherwise you are comming off like a potential lefty troll who hasn’t fully grasped what it means to be a conservative. I am calling you on that here and now. I am by no means claiming to be a political guru by anymeans but I am a citizen who takes an active role in my community. PS Drunk blogging is for liberals.

sonnyspats1 on September 10, 2007 at 6:53 PM

No, sonnypats, you may not control what I say.

You are not the boss of me.

Christoph on September 10, 2007 at 7:04 PM

Which explains the principle behind the idea of those people who just say to “secure” the entire Mexican border or the border between Iran and Iraq are smoking too much of the Peyote.

Strategic success is achieved through other means.

And highlighting (or striking out in this case) my point that strategic success is achieved with offensive military action (and unstated in the case of your southern border strict law enforcement in the interior) is a BRILLIANT way of showcasing my leftism.

My hat’s off to you, sonnyspats1.

Christoph on September 10, 2007 at 7:07 PM

There has been much in the media about the citizenry’s
dislike for the Commander in Chief of our Armed forces.

Sonnyspats1 on September 10,2007 at 6:53PM.

Sonnyspats1:I am in no way defending Christoph,we have
locked horns before on the topic of bombing Hiroshima.

However,I as a Canadian,think that Ronald(Raygun-Starwars)
Reagan,and President George Bush are the best Presidents
the United States of America has ever had.
Like I said in previous threads,their are Canadians that
support President Bush.And I’m one of them.
And especially now with the War on Terror.

Politics,I’ll tell you what p!sses me off.

Yesterday,Harry Reid,the (idiot)leading Liberal Democrat
stated that on the Surge in Irag,General Patreaus had
Betrayed(as in Pa-trayed us)Harry Reid words not mine.
He also said that General Patreaus was playing a little lose with the facts.
So,bottom line Harry Reid thinks that General Patreaus is a
liar,and if so,he’s also calling the Commander in Chief a liar.
That is Harry Reid is calling President Bush a liar!

Yes there are some Canadians that are idiots,but there are Canadians like me that care about the United States and haven’t bought into hateing President George Bush.

canopfor on September 10, 2007 at 7:43 PM

The logical place is the coastline.

Speaking of Canada, I’d have to say the Canadian border is also pretty logical. We understandably spend our time focusing on the Mexican border, but we do have a long northern border, too.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on September 10, 2007 at 8:01 PM

Speaking of Canada

Attila(Pillage Idiot)on September 10,2007 at 8:01PM.

I agree with you,If Canada won’t secure our border
than I hope our friends and ally the United States will.

canopfor on September 10, 2007 at 8:27 PM

sonnyspats1 on September 10, 2007 at 6:53 PM

If memory serves, Christoph once linked to a great website regarding South Park, and for that, as far as I’m concerned, he can refer to any other post no matter how long ago it was.

Mind your own business.

VinceP1974 on September 10, 2007 at 8:28 PM

VinceP1974 on September 10, 2007 at 8:28 PM

Not withstanding the posting of Southpark episodes.
It is my business to call a foul where I see one. Christoph comes on here berating people suposedly in a civil debate like a drunken candidate for a hobo fight video. I will not stand by and let him/her rag on commentors here especially since he is not able to participate in the voting process. Last night he was touting Hillary’s virtues for crissake, while claiming to be a Republican. He seems to be partial to drunk blogging.

sonnyspats1 on September 10, 2007 at 9:07 PM

Christoph on September 10, 2007 at 7:04 PM

That is correct you are the boss. Do you have an idiot for an employee. In an effort to extend an olive branch to you I posted advice only. Do with it as you please. Just remember contempt and arrogance is a sharp two edged sword. You are very argumentitive, and I strongly suspect you are intoxicated sir.

sonnyspats1 on September 10, 2007 at 9:12 PM

canopfor on September 10, 2007 at 7:43 PM

Thats great to hear canofor. In these times we need to build bridges and unite. Thanks for your response and I look foward to reading/replying your comments. My words were not directed at all Canadians by any means. You are welcome here as is everyone. I am convinced that when debates deteriate into name calling and emotional rants then we debase the whole process. I am just trying to moderate to a level of civility.

sonnyspats1 on September 10, 2007 at 9:23 PM

Thank you Sonnyspats1,I’m hear to help any American,
but I prefer to help Republicans fight the good fight.

And my prayers are with you especially today,on this
September 11.

No human being,and no American deserved what those animals did on this day in 2001.

I will never believe anyone that the United States of America caused this.That kind of thinking is sick period.

So,to you and you country,GOD BLESS AMERICA.

canopfor on September 11, 2007 at 1:26 AM

and I strongly suspect you are intoxicated sir.
sonnyspats1 on September 10, 2007 at 9:12 PM

Is that what happens when you start making the implications that Hillary will have her critics or opponents killed as you did in the other thread?

Bradky on September 11, 2007 at 4:26 AM

Last night he was touting Hillary’s virtues for crissake, while claiming to be a Republican.

How am I a Republican? Since I’m a Canadian.

Hmmmm?

Hillary Clinton has positive qualities as do most of us. You’re just too radical (and a ninny).

Being a rabid reactionary right-winger is not me. And my saying that of the declared Democratic candidates, Hillary would be my preference, although I prefer the Republican candidates does not prove your position, but then what you say usually doesn’t.

I’ve taken political tests tending to show where you lean. At first I was skeptical, but after taking them I found them highly accurate.

Centre-right.

Hawkish militarily (just read this thread to grasp that… if you can understand it), socially liberal except for abortion, and someone willing to defend Democrats on those rare instances they are right while advocating for generally conservative principles.

But not rabid far-right views like yours. You think I have to hate Hillary Clinton to be a Republican or conservative?

On the contrary. While not a Christian my views in this instance are more Christian than yours, which is a scenario I’ve come across over and over again.

If one situation is related to another — and defending a coastline is similar to defending a border for a lot of reasons like size and resources — then I’m going to mention how they are similar.

If you are too dense to understand it, that’s your problem.

Rather than complain when I bring something up, if you think you can hand my ass to me in a debate do so. You haven’t yet.

Christoph on September 11, 2007 at 8:43 AM