No wasted words

No wasted words

America the Vulnerable: How Our Government Is Failing to Protect Us from Terrorism

By Stephen Flynn

Published by HarperCollins, Paperback, USA $25.95; Canada $39.95

ISBN: 00670571284

Anyone who has heard Stephen Flynn speak knows that he's rarely at a loss for words. For that reason, the very brevity of his new book, "America the Vulnerable," is a surprise. It's a compact volume, 220 pages, that's easily read in a couple of nights or a long day at the beach. But this is no light summer reading.

Brief as it is, it is the essence of Flynn's sobering message: Americans must wake up to the fact that terrorists will strike again on our soil, and that the federal government has failed to protect critical infrastructure at home, while focusing too many resources on fighting the enemy overseas.

More disturbing, he says, Americans who are not prepared for the next attack may overreact, allowing politicians to enact laws that will effectively strangle the economy they are trying to protect. In effect, we can do more economic harm to ourselves than the terrorists do, he argues. As a portent of things that may come, the international trade community needs to look no further than the well-intentioned but clumsy attempt to protect the food supply through the Bioterrorism Act of 2002.

Flynn says the intermodal transportation system and the more than 6 million containers that arrive at U.S. ports each year pose the greatest vulnerability. That's no surprise to JoC readers. Nor are his remedies: enforceable security standards, and user fees to pay for security. But those fees would fund a national recovery fund administered by an independent Federal Security Reserve System, modeled after the Federal Reserve.

There's nothing light or romantic about Flynn's message, but America the Vulnerable should find a place at the top of people's summer-reading stack. It's a wake-up call for people who believe their government is keeping them safe. People must be better-informed and better-prepared. Those may be the best anti-terrorism weapons of all.