TSA Nominee: ‘We Will Never Win’ War on Terror, But Can ‘Contain Terrorism'
January 18, 2010 - 2:29 PMErroll Southers, nominated by President Obama to head the Transportation Security Administration, said "we will never win" a war on terrorism in the permanent sense, but we can focus on trying to "contain terrorism."
The TSA, an element of the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for the security of commercial aviation. Southers made his remarks in a 2008 video interview with the Videojug.com Web site.
In the online interview, Southers was asked, “What is the ‘war on terror’?”
He answered: “First, terror is a strategy, and it's difficult at best academically speaking to have a war against a strategy. Second, to suggest ‘a war’ suggests that there's a matrices for success. So, if the war on terror means that we're going to mitigate terrorism from ever happening again, we will never win that war – much like, unfortunately, the war on drugs.”
“The war on drugs has been around for as long as I'm alive and narcotics trafficking is alive and well, and prospering,” said Southers. “So I would like to say that we have an effort here to contain terrorism, to reduce the risk of terrorism. And I think that's what you'll find Homeland Security, National Security agencies are engaged in, which is reducing that risk, making the environment hostile for them to operate in, in order to be successful.”
Southers was also asked, “How will we know when the ‘war on terror’ is over?” and said: “I would think that by the phraseology of ‘war on terror’ and efforts to contain it, it will never be over. It will never be over because terrorism, by the true nature of what it is, morphs into something new all the time.”
The terrorist groups that are successful, such as Al Qaeda, said Southers, are “successful because they are able to adapt, be flexible, and learn. They are learning organizations.”
If those groups learn “how to compromise our security efforts, that war will never end,” he said. “It may subside, it may be reduced in terms of frequency, but we’ll never be comfortable to the point where we can believe it’s over.”
In the online interview, Southers was further asked, “Is U.S. foreign policy effective at preventing terrorism?”
Southers said: “Some people might argue that U.S. foreign policy exacerbates terrorism. Our enemy, if you will, uses our foreign policy to suggest that, in the case of Islam, that this is a war against their religion, and given media networks overseas such as Al-Jazeera and others, they use what we do to suggest that this is a holy war.”
“So our foreign policy really needs to engage communities across the globe in explaining what we do, why we're doing it, and partner with them,” said Southers. “I don't think our foreign policy is going to be effective unless we partner with other countries who have the same terrorist concerns that we do in addressing those concerns. I think it's very important.”
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Southers' official title will be Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the Transportation Security Administration. Southers, a former FBI special agent and member of the Bureau’s SWAT Team, was nominated by Obama on Sept. 10, 2009.
Currently, Southers splits his time between teaching counter-terrorism at the University of Southern California and serving as Chief of Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism for the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Police Department.
The “Videojug” Web site, with offices in Britain and the United States, was launched in September 2006 and describes itself as “the world’s most comprehensive library of free factual video content online” and the “definitive online ‘encyclopedia of life.’” It seeks out and interviews experts around the world to “provide answers to common questions and concerns.”