Goodbye Color-Code Threat Alerts, But Hello Defense Cuts

The White House made news last week when it announced the deployment of US drones to assist in the NATO mission in Libya. The conflict in the country has devolved into a stalemate with few signs that strong-man Qadhafi plans on giving up the hands of power. The president’s decision is unlikely to change anything. This “contribution” is anything but a game changer and won’t change the military balance. “The drones are just another one-off step from a White House that does not want to get in but is afraid of being left out.” What was needed from the start—and what is needed now—is a clear and responsible plan to isolate the regime and support an opposition that is worthy to support. That was always the only practical option.
Now, the clock is ticking and time is running out. Sooner or later, terrorists will set up a network to send foreign fighters to Libya. Then the West will face the prospect of Qadhafi on one side and a Somalia-like debacle on the other.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has a much bigger problem: a Middle East going through historical transformation. The president has offered scant new insights into how his administration will respond to the situations in Yemen and Syria. Furthermore, the White House appears to have no grand strategy. Rather than sending in a pair of drones, Obama should be exercising energetic leadership now and continuing to engage in the right way in the months ahead.
On the homefront last week there was better news. The administration officially announced the end of the “color-coded” terrorist alert system. “It's laudable that DHS plans to scrap the color-coded alert system that was little short of stupid.”
“The new system—dubbed the National Terrorism Advisory System—takes the right steps toward adequately communicating with the public about the risks we face and will ensure that the alerts are more than just background noise in the busy lives of Americans,” writes Heritage Homeland Security expert Jena McNeill. For instance, the system focuses on ensuring that alerts are (1) clear and simple and (2) specific/actionable. Instead of the silly color system where Americans were expected to disaggregate the consequences of the color orange from the color green, it will label a threat as either “elevated” or “imminent” and provide specific information on the threat where possible. It will then provide next steps that can be taken to “prevent, mitigate or respond to the threat.”
On the whole, however, Obama’s foreign and national security policies are little to crow about. Everything that is not a disaster —homeland security, combating terrorism, trying terrorists, finishing the job in Iraq, not abandoning Afghanistan is mostly Bush-lite. All of Obama’s initiatives — containing Iran, matching China, resetting with Russia, negotiating with Israel and the Palestinians, keeping up with the “Arab Spring,” cornering Qadhafi … have all flopped. Now, the president says he also wants to gut defense.
For all these reasons, Obama this week earns a grade of “D” for really disappointing. Contributing Editor James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is a leading expert in defense affairs, intelligence, and strategy, military operations and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation.

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