The tragedy at Fort Hood last week raises the question of whether we are indeed fighting in Afghanistan in order to protect ourselves from having to do so on our own soil. Here was a man trusted by the military in the middle of what had been one of the safest places on earth, yet he murdered 13 people and injured 38. Surely if he accomplished this, no matter where you come down on his motive, it is not inconceivable that a coordinated enemy could do this kind of damage in a number of less well protected locations -- simultaneously.
On 60 Minutes in a piece called "Sabotaging the System," we learned of the extraordinary number of cyber attacks perpetrated on the U.S. everyday. A sophisticated attacker could bring down a U.S. power grid. And worse, the U.S. is not prepared for such an attack. This same interview revealed that an Internet "Pearl Harbor" occurred in 2007 when a volume of information the size of The Library of Congress was stolen. Last November someone hacked into the CENTCOM network for two hours.
Why have the American people been kept in the dark about these events? The answer given on 60 Minutes: "The previous administration didn't want to admit that they'd been rolled in 2007. There's a disincentive to tell people things are going badly."
What about the current administration? They don't seem to mind telling us things are going badly in Afghanistan and that we need to send more troops there. But we're not supposed to be told that it's now possible for an enemy via cyber snooping to alter the functionality of a nuclear weapon. It makes you wonder if Glenn Greenwald is right -- that we are simply a country perpetually at war -- the old version. We are stuck in this habit no matter how little sense it makes -- even when the "war" has no identifiable front and no clear definition of victory. For this purpose we're willing to sacrifice the lives of thousands of our soldiers.
We need to wake up. The war is clearly not just over there. It's here. And it has been for some time. Yet we sit unprepared, focusing our resources on bad guys thousands of miles away -- not seeming to know where they are, whether they'll stay away once we get rid of them or even what good it does us to escort them out.
Dr. Reardon also blogs at bardscove.