Perhaps the most consequential aftermath of those horrific tragedies was a national consensus to take homeland security seriously. Congress established the Department of Homeland Security, not just as a federal agency for our protection, but as the hub of a national enterprise to ensure a unified response to foreign threats and disasters.
The Department of Defense established NORTHCOM, a domestic military command dedicated to protecting the homeland and providing military assistance to civilian authorities for disasters and domestic response. These were unprecedented institutions, with the mission of safeguarding the safety, prosperity, and freedoms of Americans as rigorously in peacetime as in times of war.
Up In a Balloon
Biden’s balloon follies demonstrate how far in two decades our government has drifted from the noble vision of limited government providing the fundamental service we expect from the government: providing for the common defense.
The intent of homeland security was to better serve Americans. Instead, Joe Biden has exploited that centralization of authority, like every other instrument of government from the IRS to the CDC, to put politics ahead of the American people.
Once word about Xi’s hot-air overflight got out, the Administration’s initial reaction was to obsess over the politics of the problem. Rather than address the problem directly and forthrightly, they deflected and obfuscated to try to obscure the fact that they had failed to respond appropriately. We’ve seen this before when they abandoned Afghanistan. Balloon-gate was no different.
There are no two ways to parse this. A Chinese spy balloon traversing the entirety of the United States is blatantly illegal, a clear violation of American airspace, and a deliberate encroachment on American sovereignty. It is a perfect example of the kind of threat that post-9/11 homeland security measures were meant to prevent.
Biden floated a variety of explanations and excuses as to why the balloon was allowed to survey critical defense facilities from coast to coast—from “Blame Trump” to “Everything is under control,” to “I am really the hero here.” But the real reason for the Administration’s belated, muddled, and confused response is that Biden is trapped between his desire to want to normalize relations with China, and the American people who want him to get tough on China and protect us.
Biden has a long track record of failing to be honest about the China threat. The balloon fiasco is just the latest example of the White House putting its politics over our security.
The Border Threat
And it is not just the China threat where Biden is playing fast and loose with our safety. Border security has become such a massive disaster that now Congress is considering impeaching the Secretary of Homeland Security. The administration’s malfeasance on the border is so egregious, writes former U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan, they have tried to lower the number of illegal border crossings by mass “pardoning” ineligible immigrants and waving them through ports of entry. This shell game serves Biden politically but does nothing to secure the border.
From sending the FBI to investigate school boards to using the Department of Homeland Security to open the gates to millions of unvetted immigrants, Biden has inverted the nation’s homeland security architecture to serve his purposes rather than our security.
Biden may think this is all just good politics, and he may be right—until the next 9/11. The reason Americans took homeland security seriously after the Sept. 11 attacks is because they recognized there were foreign enemies intent on killing us in our own communities—and we were acting like fat and happy sitting ducks. The sorry state of our border security and the balloon overflight are global advertising to America’s enemies that America is open for monkey business.
This unserious approach to homeland security must stop right now. Biden is no doubt hoping that the worst that can happen won’t happen under his watch.
But hope is not a strategy. Nor is it good enough for America. The world has only gotten more dangerous since 2001. It’s time for Biden to wise up and put national security before political calculations.
A Heritage Foundation vice president, James Jay Carafano directs the think tank’s research on matters of national security and foreign affairs. He is a 19FortyFive Contributing Editor.