Round The Clock

I don’t know about you, but my ASIS experience definitely ended on a high note on Wednesday.

During the amazing keynote speech, Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, discussed foreign policy, revealed some of her greatest achievements and disappointments, and explained how important security professionals are in a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.

“What you’re doing in helping the ordinary be more secure is actually a very major part of fighting effectively in the war on terror, and I want to thank you very much for what you do every day,” she said.

Rice spoke for about 50 minutes, including a surprisingly substantive question and answer session at the end. As everyone knows, she’s a phenomenal speaker, and for me, the talk was funny, informative and, at times, very poignant. Her discussion of 9/11 was especially fascinating.

“I think we can all agree that that day … was a watershed moment in the history of the United States,” she said. “It was like a crack in time. Nothing has ever been the same since Sept. 11.”

Rice explained that 9/11 necessitated a major shift in the way people thought about safety and security in the United States, a change that led to the creation of a U.S. military command and the Department of Homeland Security. And, “despite what you may think about the Department of Homeland Security,” she said, the still-new division has done wonders to unify disparate government factions and the private sector against outside threats.

Rice then moved to discuss some of the dangers facing the United States in this post-9/11 environment. Today, failed states are the true threats, she said, because they breed resentment, violence and poverty. And in situations like Iraq and Afghanistan, international policing often gets complicated by international diplomacy, which adds to the difficulty of modern foreign relations. As Rice put it, diplomacy is much more in-the-trenches than it used to be.

“It’s going out there and helping people solve their problems,” she said, from enabling small farmers in Guatemala to become self-sustaining to training African soldiers.

I’m all for diplomacy, but aren’t you wondering what, if anything, Rice had to say about the Iraq War in particular?

“Remember historical context,” she stressed. “Today’s headlines and history’s judgments are rarely the same. And if you govern for today’s headlines, you will not have history’s judgments on your side.”

Regardless of the politics, it was interesting to hear Rice’s first-hand account of 9/11. Like many of us, when the first plane hit the World Trade Center, she thought it was an accident. But with the second plane came the realization that she was dealing with an unprecedented situation.

“Throughout that day, we knew what it was like to be at war with something that we didn’t fully understand,” she said.

Rice closed by again stressing the importance of the security industry -- at all levels -- in this new world. As 9/11 showed us, the rules have changed.

“[The terrorists] took our effects of normal life and turned them into the worst attack on America’s territory ever,” she said. It wasn’t a missile or a tank; instead, the attack came from airplanes, loaded with American citizens and fuel. A similar attack could easily come in the form of a backpack or city bus -- which is why constant diligence is key.

“It’s the daily, everyday stuff around us that’s dangerous,” she said. “… Security professionals need to worry about how to connect what might seem harmless or ordinary to terrorists who are getting smarter and smarter.”

Although a few events remain Thursday, that’s it for our editorial team in Anaheim. I hope your show was a success!

About the Author

Megan Weadock is a communications specialist at Monitronics.

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