Richard Thieme's

Islands in the Clickstream

Doing What's Necessary

Network warfare requires that we identify nodes in a net and the links between them, then systematically degrade, transform or destroy both nodes and links. Cyberwar in all of its manifestations is a metaphor for the network wars in which we are currently engaged. The Internet once again shows the dye in the arteries of the mind of society.

Because networks are based on trust, network warfare must undermine trust. The intended end of terrorism is to destroy the trust that holds a civil society together. The war against terrorism is executed with the same end in mind.

But the best defense is to build and distribute trusted links and nodes, a network that is redundant, resilient, and infinitely elastic.

When the infrastructure of society is the weapon as well as the target, then all of us are on the front lines. Some are unwilling soldiers, some don't know they are soldiers, some can't believe they are soldiers - but just as we have learned online that we are each responsible for securing our nodes and links, we are growing aware of our roles in the new battlespace.

We are all on the front lines. We are each responsible for doing what is necessary.

I noted previously that the command to "Be alert!" is not self-executing. We must be trained to be alert, to recognize what constitutes suspicious activity, and to know how to respond appropriately. Much of what we need to learn is already available, and those ready opportunities must be linked with new opportunities for education and training on the web and in our communities.

Many of us feel a greater urgency to contribute to an effort worthy of our deepest values and commitments. The National Security Agency saw recruiting calls surge from 2,700 a month to more than 16,000. Applications to the CIA increased by 700% after September 11. Army recruiters too report an increase in people wanting to enlist.

Most of us won't be able to join an intelligence organization or branch of the military, but it isn't necessary to do so in order to gather and focus our energies in positive ways. We have a mandate from reality itself to create a network to gather the creative energies of just plain people like ourselves and use them effectively.

A military leader recently said that for the first time in American history, the military is not able to defend the infrastructure of the nation. Critical infrastructure components - power, water and sewage, telecommunications, transportation, financial services - must defend themselves from physical and cyber-assault.

Creating a "partnership between public and private sectors" is no longer easy because that simplistic division between sectors no longer fits our current reality. The nodes of our multiple networks intersect with one another in multi-dimensional ways. Governments can support but not provide all of the structures that we need.

I propose that we create a Homeland Defense Organization, a grass-roots effort on behalf of educating and training average citizens who find themselves on the front lines of a new kind of battle.

The Homeland Defense Organization is conceived as a loosely organized network of classes, training opportunities, and awareness-enhancing experiences which when taken together constitute a pro-active response to the mandate to "Be alert!"

Since September 11, many feel a desire to "do something." The Homeland Defense Organization channels that desire in productive ways by instructing, training, and supporting all of us in taking an enhanced role in defending ourselves in a protracted war with terrorism.

The HDO will address specific needs as they evolve, but will include:

+ noticing what's out of the ordinary, creating a global "neighborhood watch;"

+ responding appropriately to perceived threats;

+ understanding enhanced security as a necessary safeguard;

+ emergency planning on individual, family and community levels;

+ specific responses to urban warfare - what to do when roads are blocked, explosions take place, chemical biological or nuclear attacks are threatened or executed, communications/electronic networks are disrupted;

+ education in the new geopolitical realities of network warfare and globalization;

+ physical fitness and training, including martial arts and weight training;

+ self-defense;

+ spiritual fitness and training, including the use of "spiritual tools" such as meditation, awareness enhancement, and prayer (non-denominational, this aspect would nevertheless include existing organizations in a non-partisan way).

I am inviting you to work with myself and others to build the Homeland Defense Organization, to link existing opportunities for education and training online and in the physical world with new opportunities.

HDO is a non-partisan, non-profit, independent grass-roots effort to create a positive informed response to the threat of terrorism. It is not intended to be administered or funded by any government but needs the support and expertise of all sectors of society. I invite your ideas and suggestions at this stage of development.

If you want to be kept informed via the HDO newsletter, reply with "subscribe HDO" as subject or text. A web site will be online soon.

The challenge to our humanity is absolute. The antidotes to anxiety and fear and the paralysis they cause are community, a free flow of information and energy, and accountability to our highest goals and a vision worthy of our best selves.

We need to think creatively, differently. Two friends involved with the intelligence community, for example, suggested enlisting "cadres of young people who could be teachers." In particular, "African American males have had to live in situations in which they often are and feel threatened. They survive by recognizing and countering real threats. It would be a great win-win if we called upon these young men to be teachers for our society."

We need one another's support in order to stay in our discomfort zones as we map the contours of a changed landscape. Alone we will fall back but together ... we can do this.

Islands in the Clickstream is an intermittent column written by Richard Thieme exploring social and cultural dimensions of computer technology and the ultimate concerns of our lives. Comments are welcome.

Richard Thieme is a professional speaker, consultant, and writer focused on the impact of computer technology on individuals and organizations - the human dimensions of technology and work - and "life on the edge."

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Islands in the Clickstream (c) Richard Thieme, 2001. All rights reserved.

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