Lessons about What Was, What Is and What Will Be

Written by Mr. Oded Raz and Mr. Itay Levin

On June 22, 1941, over four million German soldiers organized as three armies invaded the Soviet Union in Operation “Barbarossa”. The Soviet army was surprised by the invasion and its intensity. Prior to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, warnings from various sources reached Stalin regarding the impending attacks. According to later research, it seems that the Soviet intelligence in general and Stalin in particular received dozens of warnings from serious sources that warned of the plan. The reasons that the intelligence information was ignored are as numerous as the researchers who dealt with the topic. Various explanations were given to Stalin’s disregard of the warnings. Many claimed that Stalin refused to believe the warnings due to his dogmatic philosophy, based on the belief that Marxism is a science that enables understanding reality as it is, and because of his certainty that the Soviet forces stationed along the length of the border could halt any attack. Of this point, he believed, the Germans were also aware. In light of this certainty, he decided that there was no need to change the dispersion of the Red Army along the borders and that the current order of battle was sufficient.

Sixty years later, the largest chain of terror attacks in history took place in the United States. Now that time has passed, we should answer the question – was the American evaluation of the terror situation faulty, or was this simply a onetime tactical failure?

Years before the September 11th terror attacks, radical Muslim factions around the world expressed opposition to the intervention of the United States in Saudi Arabia and additional Arab countries while simultaneously taking advantage of their crude oil resources as their populations continued to live in poverty. In addition, they were opposed to American support of Israel and the penetration of Western culture into the Muslim world. The expulsion of the Soviet army from Afghanistan by Muslim fighters and volunteers from around the world, and the successes of the Hezbollah in Lebanon, were a catalyzing factor for the Jihad members and their supporters; suddenly, militant Islam became a significantly influential player in global developments. As a result, many Islamic communities throughout the world became ardent supporters of the Al-Qaeda movement, an umbrella organization for the world Jihad movements, training terrorists to commit terror attacks in areas of the Islamic struggle throughout the world. The attempted attacks on the Twin Towers in 1993, the attack in 1999 at the American embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, and the attack in 2000 against the US Navy Destroyer, USS Cole, did not serve as warnings because these were not familiar forms of terror attacks. In addition, Abdullah Azzam, one of the ideological heads of the radical Islamic movements, wrote at the end of the 1980’s: “Liberating Afghanistan is the beginning of the return of Islam to world domination – a situation which will not only bring about the liberation of the Afghans, but also the renewed conquest of all of the lands, from Spain to China, which were under the enlightened Muslim reign in the past, when Europe was in the darkness of the Middle Ages. This is the first stage. The second stage will be a final war on the heretics. The war of the day of judgment.”

The amount of intelligence information that dealt with the development of the world Jihad and its intentions was voluminous. This is exactly as described above in the introduction regarding Operation “Barbarossa”.

It seems that regarding both of the above examples, the cause for the failure to understand the big picture was a faulty understanding of the security situation and its influence on the national targets.

In the Western world, terror is treated as a tactical issue that does not essentially impact national security. This is true in the United States as well. Terror attacks, as serious as they were, were treated as a “slight tap on the shoulder” and nothing more. The September 11th attack and the following attacks in the European countries and in India brought about a change in this attitude – that this was not just a passing wave of events whose significance was local, but rather an offensive that must be treated differently than before.

The Western recognition that the change demands a different response stems from revolutionary events whose essence is giving a quick response that is not necessarily the right one. It is enough to experience on one hand the increased rigorousness of the security checks at airports and the integration of advanced checking technology, and on the other hand the successes of the terrorist organizations in penetrating these systems and bringing destructive materials onto planes.

It seems that the ten years that have passed since the September 11th events obligate the decision makers, both on the international level and the national level, to convene in order to decide on an inclusive policy that will provide a holistic method of dealing with terror and its influences. The countries must discuss the following issues:

On a political level:

1. To establish that internal security is a first-rank national issue which must be treated appropriately: in terms of the national objectives and targets, budget, quality of manpower, legislation, etc.

2. To recognize the fact, and everything this entails, that in this war, the citizens are at the front for the first time since World War II.

3. To establish that internal security is a separate discipline that has opponents, values, norms and challenges that are completely different than those recognized on a military level.

4. To examine active international cooperation. For example, the establishment of an international task force (like NATO) to deal with terror organizations effectively and professionally.

5. Increasing state involvement among the Muslim populations with the objective of educating them to Western values, while aiming to teach and instill values of tolerance, democracy and an opposition to any form of violence. All of this is to be done without damaging the acceptance of multiculturalism as a social value.

6. Establishment of an obligating international standard to deal with all elements of national security and not only aviation security, because it is probable that the opponent will find new targets if operating in the air becomes difficult.

7. Incorporation and encouragement of relevant civil industries to enter the national security field in terms of security aspects.

8. Organization of international meetings, such as the G-8, to deal with the relevant security issues on the international agenda.

On an operational level:

1. To internalize that security is an element of the state prevention system.

2. Recognition that security cannot just be passive. The security systems spread across the length and breadth of the states must incorporate operational elements and concepts whose purpose is to aid in creating an intelligence picture derived from events that take place around the target and/or the guarded area.

3. Examination of the threats in comparison to the responses. The immense investments in aviation security did not prevent, at least regarding two terrorists, the entry of explosives to the planes. All of the preventative elements must be examined to prepare operational tools to deal with the opponent.

4. Establishment of security communities who assist the security organizations. In other words, educating about and instilling the idea that there is a need to assist security professionals, whether by reporting unusual events or recognizing a threat, and expecting this of civil factors that are not trained security professionals.

5. Legislation of security bylaws for buildings, critical infrastructures and densely populated locations, similar to the security laws accepted internationally.

6. Establishment of a professional forum to periodically examine the security response, including all of the targets, threats and the quality of the response.

It is unclear whether global wars between blocs or countries will return in the near future. It seems that it’s possible to conclude, beyond a reasonable doubt that dealing with terror will continue for many more years. The principles of the above suggestions stem from a desire to prepare in advance in order to provide the citizens with proper security responses, parallel to continuous fighting against both global and local terror organizations.

States maintain professional, well organized militaries despite the fact that, at least in the Western world, the number of wars is almost insignificant. I won’t be wrong if I state that an asymmetrical war makes it more difficult for the states and militaries to deal with the opponent. Recognition of the fact that the apparent opponent is different than usual will lead to the formulation of effective, professional and especially prepared prevention and security systems to deal with the threats of the future.

Written by:

Mr. Oded Raz – Oded Raz, is a former senior ranking security official of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA). His most recent position with the ISA was as deputy head of the protection and security division. Mr. Raz advises clients on strategic tactics for security preparedness and assists companies in both identifying alternative uses for technologies to enhance homeland security defense and integrating them into the security marketplace. oded@lotansecurity.com

Mr. Levin is an expert in the area of protective security with extensive experience in aviation security, security systems management, critical infrastructure and corporate protection. Mr. Levin’s experience is based on his past work managing international aviation security systems spread over a wide geographical area for ELAL Airlines Security.  itayl@lotansecurity.com


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