Senator Rudman speaks out on terror, prevention

by Licyau Wong | 10/29/03 6:00am

Before a capacity crowd yesterday, former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman highlighted three reasons the United States is a major target for terrorism.

Rudman asserted that the United States remains highly vulnerable to such attacks, and he said that while there is no way to fully secure a country, stress needs to be placed on the need to consolidate intelligence and fund first-response workers in order to increase homeland security. He also criticized how the Bush administration has addressed the issue and backed-up American-Israel relations.

Rudman was appointed by President Bill Clinton to co-chair the National Security Study Group in 1998, also known as the Hart-Rudman Commission, with former Colorado senator Gary Hart. The bipartisan group was assigned to investigate the security situation of the United States. The group summarized its findings and suggestions in three reports, the last of which was finished in February of 2001.

The group concluded that the major threat to American security came from international terrorism.

"The evidence was overwhelming if anyone were to stop and look at it ... Nobody should have been surprised at 9/11 if they had been paying attention," Rudman said.

There are three primary reasons why the United States is a major target for terrorism, Rudman said. The main reason is that the United States is the only super power today.

"Historically, nobody likes the big guy on the block. We sometimes throw our weight around, and we're perceived as being very arrogant, although I don't think that's true," Rudman said.

The second reason is that American culture is often disliked and seen as corrupting younger generations.

The last major reason is that American Middle Eastern policy is frequently viewed by Arab nations as blind and strongly biased in favor of Israel. Rudman disagreed with this claim.

"We support Israel because it's the only democratic nation and friend of ours in the region," Rudman said.

There are three areas of that need to be focused on: prevention, a system for sharing information, and response.

Currently the Federal Bureau of Investigation addresses only domestic intelligence while the Central Intelligence Agency is restricted to international concerns. A lack of cooperation between the two hampered any sort of preventive action to the Sept. 11 attacks, Rudman said.

Better public diplomacy would also aid in preventing terrorism.

"We need to explain ourselves better to the Islamic world; we can't have moderate Islam believing that we don't respect their values and faith," Rudman said.

The military is inadequate in addressing response needs. The major players in first-response are in the local levels such as members of the police and fire forces as well as hospital workers. Communities need more funding and support.

"If a lot of people die because the communities are under-funded, there will be political hell to pay," Rudman said.

When asked to evaluate how well the Bush administration has done in terms of addressing homeland security, Rudman said, "fair."

He criticized the administration for taking too much time to put things together, but he said that at least there was action taken in the right direction. He also felt that there has been too much emphasis placed on airports and not enough on other ports and areas that require attention.

"There isn't enough money, and I don't think it is being properly spent," Rudman said.

Rudman graduated from Syracuse University and Boston College Law School. He served in the Korean War, rising to the rank of captain. He practiced law in Nashua, NH before being elected as a New Hampshire senator from 1980 until his retirement in 1992. He co-founded the Concord Coalition to increase public awareness of the United States fiscal situation. In 1993 he was appointed to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

Rudman's speech was the first in the Great Issues lecture series sponsored by the John Sloan Dickey Center. The Great Issues lecture series was inspired by a class that Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey taught in 1947. The series will bring notable figures to the campus to address international issues.

Director of the Dickey Center Kenneth Yalowitz said he hopes to host a Great Issues speaker each term. On-air correspondent for PBS's News Hour, Susan Dentzer '77 is scheduled to be the Winter Term Great Issues speaker. Possible topics for future events include the war in Iraq, emerging global health issues, and humanities topics.