Yes, Pakistan is an ally to the United States, but what of the truce-signed the same day the counterterrorism report was issued-between Pakistan's President Musharraf and pro-Taliban tribes? The complex political tugging between Pakistan, the United States, and the Taliban muddle easy claims to success gaining Pakistan as an ally.
It is true, as the report indicates, that Project BioShield "provides $5.6 billion to support development and procurement of "next-generation" medical countermeasures, expedite National Institute of Health (NIH) research . . . and to give the FDA the ability to make promising treatments quickly available in emergency situations."
But the ambitious potential of the program has yet to translate into success. One of the program's top priorities, creating a better anthrax vaccine, has already faced delays. As the New York Times reported on September 18, conflict between the newly contracted drugmaker, VaxGen, and Emergent BioSolutions, which has existing stores of a problematic vaccine, may lead the whole project to miscarry.
Evaluating future challenges to counterterrorism policy
The first seven sections of 9/11 Five Years Later suggest that improved technology holds the key to a safe future. We will be safe, the report tells us, when our belongings, our critical infrastructure and we ourselves are more effectively monitored and surveilled, pre-screened, screened, and scanned. These claims themselves are worthy of debate. Our security must be balanced against our civil liberties; the nearly ungraspable profit to be made from such technology is worth our scrutiny. We need to know the costs these technologies may level on our lives, our values and our pockets.
We also need to know if technology works. Challenges Ahead, an accounting of what faces the United States and her allies now, suggests it does not. The report suggests that an overdependence on technological solutions will fail, because terrorism remains a poorly understood social and political problem.
The predominant challenges catalogued in the report relate not to technology, but to understanding either terrorists' and their supporters' perceptions of the world and how to communicate alternative values. "A key challenge remains understanding the motivations of those who join or support terrorist networks . . . "; "Success demands that we explain more effectively our values, ideals, policies and actions ... "; "We must do more to understand the tools and methodologies employed by extremists and how radicalization occurs "; "A key challenge is partners' political will ."
What technology will ever be sophisticated enough to forestall Iranian, Syrian or other states' support for terrorist groups? Technology can play a role in controlling telecommunications, but it will reach the limits of its potential success against insurgents intent on "rally[ing] support" and "shar[ing] experiences." There is no chip, no machine capable of facing down terrorists "fomenting radical ideologies."
New technologies can help secure borders, control the dispersion of biological agents, close off critical infrastructure to terrorist threats. It is as vitally important to national security that the government promote and fund ways to keep our minds open: to understanding competing ideologies, the societies and cultures that root them, the languages in which they are communicated and the circumstances that perpetuate them.