Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st the nation’s political and military leaders realized and usually followed a common-sense forward-deployment strategy–taking the battle to the enemy on his homeland rather than on America’s own soil, in other words. That strategy was  much easier to implement, of course, by the presence of friendly nations both to the north and to the south and by the protective waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which from a strictly naval/military point of view served as the world’s largest moats.     The first successful large-scale enemy assaults against American forces on U.S. “soil” since the War of 1812 were the 7 December 1941 Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinkings, by Nazi U-Boats, of numerous U.S. and allied ships in the close-to-shore waters up and down the Atlantic Coast. The moats had been breached, but not quite broken. That situation changed abruptly when the Soviet Navy, under the leadership of Fleet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, achieved near-parity with the U.S. Navy. In the 1970s and 1980s Soviet nuclear-powered submarines, and sometimes surface ships as well, patrolled routinely in the international waters just off both U.S. coasts, and in the Caribbean. Still, the comforting illusion persisted that the U.S. homeland itself was virtually immune from attack–except, of course, in a global U.S./Soviet nuclear confrontation that both sides conscientiously strived to avoid.   The 9/11 terrorist attacks exploded both the immunity myth and, with it, at least part of the rationale for the forward-deployment strategy. The U.S. homeland is now more vulnerable, in numerous ways, to enemy attack than it has been since the Revolutionary War. The attack could be incremental, piecemeal, bridge-by-bridge or building by building. Subway trains, stadiums, crowded theaters, nuclear power plants, even grade schools, libraries, and universities all are among the most likely targets–and the most likely weapons are not long-range missiles and massive artillery shells but dirty bombs, easy-to-conceal canisters of poison gas, and everyday beatup passenger cars filled with deadly explosives.   One result of these and other changes is that defense of the U.S. homeland is now a major component of the overall U.S. defense strategy. All of the nation’s armed services, and a growing and increasingly capable civilian army of homeland-defense professionals–most but by no means all of them assigned to the Department of Homeland Security–have joined forces and are working and training together to detect, prevent, and, if prevention fails, mitigate the consequences of additional terrorist attacks against the United States in the future.   To learn more about the expanded role of the U.S. military in homeland defense see the incisive reports by Robert Fitton and Brent Bankus in this issue of DomPrep Journal. And watch this space for future updates on a number of new policies and programs, of literally vital interest to all Americans, that are now only in the planning stage but will soon provide additional layers of protection against America’s enemies, both foreign and domestic.
James D. Hessman

James D. Hessman is former editor in chief of both the Navy League’s Sea Power Magazine and the League’s annual Almanac of Seapower. Prior to that dual assignment he was senior editor of Armed Forces Journal International.

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