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Stephen Flynn on Girding the Homeland

Interviewee: Stephen E. Flynn
Interviewer: Robert McMahon
March 4, 2008

The U.S. presidential campaigns have tended to focus the national security debate on the war in Iraq and the pursuit of al-Qaeda and other terrorist threats. But some experts also say it is critical to place more attention on shoring up security in the U.S. homeland, and to step up preparation for an expected increase in natural disasters. Stephen E. Flynn, CFR’s senior fellow for national security studies, writes in the March edition of Foreign Affairs it is critical for the next president to empower civilians and local governments with the means to protect themselves better.

Flynn says in 2008 nine out of ten Americans live in places deemed a high risk for natural disasters but few are equipped to deal such events. He faults U.S. leaders for failing to engage citizens and provide them with the tools to prevent or respond to threats in ways that build confidence. Flynn says the “first preventers and the first responders” in most cases of disaster in the United States are every-day citizens, private companies, and local communities.

“What’s crazy, frankly, about how we’ve approached 9/11 is that we essentially say, ‘Americans shop and travel go about your lives and we’ll just empower our spies and our warriors and our policemen, we’re going to take care of this problem for you,’” Flynn says. “The current and future battle space with our adversaries is going to be in the civil, economic space, and there we need to draw on the great strength of America, which is our civil society.”

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