That Names Already Taken

We got a huge number of great reader emails in response to my post about “homeland security.” One of them came from TPM Reader BD

And why on earth was the agency not named the Department of National Security, which would have been the most natural formulation in the world and yet still serve to warm the hearts of the Cheney-Krauthammer claque of folks who like to think they’re more serious-minded, vigilant, rock-ribbed, etc. than the rest of us?

Homeland isn’t even a normal-sounding adjective–it’s a noun in drag. To me the “homeland” phenomenon is one of the most flagrant symptoms of how mentally unprepared America was to deal with 9/11, and how we allowed ourselves to kind of lose it, fall for Al Qaeda’s bait, and plunge into the “global war on terror” that has led us to get bogged down in the epic self-inflicted (not to mention inflicted-on-others) sequelae of Afghanistan and Iraq. It feels like a token of a pervasive underlying hysteria.

I think we know that answer to that. We have a Department of National Security. It’s called the Department of Defense. Not trying to be cheeky. But I think this is one of the reasons the terminology took flight after 9/11, even though it goes back to the 1980s, as I explained in the initial post. It goes to my point about imperial foreign policy. You need to do some verbal gymnastics to come up with a term for another department that is in charge of protecting our national territory if that’s not the folks who run the military.

Of course, we don’t want soldiers patrolling our streets. But we have a Department that’s basically supposed to have that covered – the Department of Justice, which has a national police force called the FBI. Of course, some of this is semantics. And I won’t say there’s no logic in having customs, border security, immigration and disaster preparedness housed together in one department. But the key premise of DHS is that the military does things overseas and in fact that our military power is so great that the threats we face on US soil are primarily asymmetric ones – read, terrorism.

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