Political science professor Michael Barkun has made a life’s work of studying the kind of racial and religious fringe groups that mean to test this vulnerability. His 1994 book, Religion and the Racist Right, won the Gustavus Myers Center Award, which honors works that help extend public understanding of the root causes of bigotry.
      Barkun points out that while terms such as “new world order” and “globalization” may represent positive efforts toward collective security and prosperity to many of us, a broad range of extremists “use these phrases as shorthand to indicate Powerful, malevolent conspiracies bent on world domination.” These fringe groups and cell organizations see any emerging order based on global trade and free movement of information as a direct attack on their traditional communities, where affiliation is based on race, religion, or both. This is as true of the radical Islamists of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network as it is of white supremacists of the so-called “Christian identity” movement.
      Groups as different—and opposed to each other—as U.S. white supremacists and Muslim fundamentalist extremists, Barkun notes, are not likely to collaborate with each other. However, they share a similarly intense hatred of mainstream American society, and Barkun sees a chilling indication that they may be learning from each other’s tactics.

“Gradually,it became clear that America, as the one great power after the end of the Cold War, would be held responsible for all things in the world, both good and bad.”

      For instance, Barkun cites The Turner Diaries, a novel by neo-Nazi National Alliance leader William Pierce (written under the pen name of Andrew Macdonald). The book seems to have substantially influenced Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and others like him. The story contains scenes in which “heroic” suicide pilots crash airplanes loaded with explosives into public buildings, including the Pentagon. “We cannot dismiss the element of a ‘copycat crime’ in the recent attacks,” he says.

      Since the September 11 attacks, the nation has lived with a disturbing and unfamiliar sense of threat. Among President George W. Bush’s first actions in addressing both the substance and perception of public fears was the creation of the Office of Homeland Security.

AP/Wide World Photos
Former U.S. Senator Warren Rudman ’52, right, is an author of the report issued by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century.

    To make such an entity effective will require a great deal of bureaucratic reform and collaboration among sometimes competing agencies, including the FBI and CIA, says Patricia Ingraham, Distinguished Professor of Public Administration, an experienced hand at the daunting job of reforming government bureaucracy. The founding director of the Alan K. Campbell Institute of Public Affairs, she served as a project director for the National Commission on Public Service (the Volcker Commission). Ingraham says the idea behind the Office of Homeland Security is not new, and regrets that it took a catastrophic event to get the wheels of government moving toward its creation. ;     In fact, two federal studies done since 1999 advocate an agency of this kind. The most recent report, delivered in February 2001 by the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, went much further than earlier recommendations by calling for a cabinet-level department. Known as the Hart-Rudman report—for the commission’s co-chairs, former senators Gary Hart of Colorado and Warren Rudman ’52 of New Hampshire—the document minced no words in warning that “bloated and unfocused efforts of the Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council, and other agencies” were inadequate to prevent such a disaster. “The combination of unconventional weapons proliferation with the persistence of international terrorism will end the relative invulnerability of the U.S. homeland to catastrophic attack,” the report states. “A direct attack against American citizens on American soil is likely over the next quarter century. The risk is not only death and destruction, but also a demoralization that could undermine U.S. global leadership. In the face of this threat, our nation has no coherent or integrated governmental structures.”


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