- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2002

If anyone thought the threat from Osama bin Laden and his ilk had passed, Thursday's warning from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should help jolt them back to reality. Armed with additional intelligence about bin Laden's terror network, Mr. Rumsfeld warned that the United States is vulnerable to new forms of terrorism, including cyber attacks, strikes against American military bases abroad and ballistic-missile attacks on American cities. "Our job is to close off as many of those avenues of potential attack as is possible," he told an audience at the National Defense University. Such strikes, he said, could "grow vastly more deadly" than those of September 11.

Also on Thursday, The Washington Times reported that U.S. intelligence agencies have issued an alert that Islamic terrorists are planning an attack on an American nuclear-power plant or one of the Department of Energy's nuclear facilities. Officials familiar with this information told reporter Bill Gertz that it mentioned bombing or using an airliner to attack a nuclear power plant or storage facility, such as a weapons storage depot, in an effort to spread deadly radiological debris. Other scenarios included bombing a U.S. warship in Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet; hijacking a commercial jet and crashing it into a building in a suicide attack; and using a vehicle to detonate a car bomb in Yemen. (Intelligence information gathered by U.S. forces in Afghanistan recently prevented a bombing of the U.S. embassy in San'aa, the Yemeni capital.)

Mr. Rumsfeld, who is establishing himself as one of the greatest secretaries of defense in American history, did an excellent job of driving home the point that the United States needs to deploy defenses against ballistic missiles to prevent becoming hostage to "nuclear blackmail." He emphasized that the war in Afghanistan has illustrated the effectiveness of some new military technologies that the Pentagon will need to purchase more of, including the Predator, which provides live television images of the battlefield. Mr. Rumsfeld also pointed to shortages of manned reconnaissance and surveillance planes, as well as chemical and biological defense equipment. He also cited eight specific lessons that Americans can learn from the current war on terrorism. These included avoiding international coalitions that seek to dictate U.S. war policy; deploying special-operations forces as quickly as possible into a conflict; telling the American people the truth and letting them know when security reasons prevent the government from telling them something; and making greater use of pre-emptive strikes.

This last suggestion will certainly create some discomfort in Iran, Iraq and North Korea the three nations singled out by President Bush as part of an international "axis of evil" for their involvement in terrorism and sales of weapons of mass destruction. Here in the United States, critics like Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution assert that Mr. Bush's efforts to take a more assertive stance toward Pyongyang "are wrong and dangerous." This is simply nonsense. It would have been an abdication of responsibility for Messrs. Bush and Rumsfeld to perpetuate the delusion that the Stalinist dictatorship in Pyongyang could be bribed into halting its efforts to produce nuclear weapons, a fantasy which drove U.S. policy-makers during the Clinton years.

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