Friday, October 17, 2008

'National Security Mom' Author Q&A

*Cross-posted on the Picket Fence Post.*

A U.S. intelligence officer and terrorism expert with decades of experience, Gina M. Bennett, a mom of five, wants us to think of national security, terrorism and foreign policy issues in an entirely different way: From the perspective of a mother who’s raising her children.

Teach your children that, at the end of the day, telling the truth is always better than lying. Stand up to bullies and don’t allow them to define who you are. Pick up your own messes. Choose your friends wisely. Always try to understand why your child’s doing something obnoxious/irresponsible/insane/irrational so that you can try to figure out a way to try to stop or dissuade her from doing that in the future.

Bennett’s book, National Security Mom: Why ‘Going Soft’ Will Make America Strong, reminded me of that old Robert Fulghum book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Only its focus is on parenting and national security. Everything Bennett says she needed to know about that subject, she learned from her family.

Bennett recently fielded questions from me about her book (published by the woman who published my book, FYI) and about national security and parents, as we prepare to go the polls and pick a new president in a few weeks:

Meredith O’Brien, Suburban Mom: Why did you write this book and for whom did you write it?

Gina Bennett, author of National Security Mom: After 20 years of countering terrorism from inside the covert world of the Intelligence Community, I came to realize that the most powerful weapon America can wield in this fight is the courage of the American people. For years, my colleagues and I have worked daily to collect intelligence, uncover plots, identify key leaders and figure out how to stop terrorists from carrying out their attacks. But no matter how hard we work, there will be times when terrorists will succeed in getting past our security efforts. But when that happens, it does not have to mean that America was defeated. As long as Americans stand united in the aftermath of such a tragedy and refuse to change because of it, the terrorists are the ones who will be defeated.

Terrorists don’t seek death and destruction alone. They want to use the horror of their attacks to shake our faith in our form of government. If we remain committed to our democratic principles and ideals, we rob them of their attempted victory over us and undermine their future influence. The men and women in government can’t do this alone. Every American is our partner, and I wrote this book to convey that message. I also wrote with parents, and especially mothers, in mind because I felt the national security debate was overwhelmingly dominated by “insider” jargon that left many parents feeling like outsiders. But you don’t have to understand all the intricacies of the intelligence, law enforcement and military efforts in countering terrorism to be an informed participant in the national security debate.

O’Brien: How did you come up with the idea of blending the notion of parenthood and national security?

Bennett: My life for the past 15 years has been a blending of the two. From the moment I brought my first son home from the hospital — in the middle of a blizzard only to have a drive-by shooting in my neighborhood leave bullet casings in my driveway - my two worlds of security-building have been one. At home, I have worked every day to secure my family’s health, welfare, happiness and faith. At work, I have tried to secure America by stopping terrorists.

Over time, I came to realize that what I was doing at work was only a small piece of securing America. When I thought more deeply about the ways in which I secure my family, I realized the “softer” or more tangible aspects of my family’s security were the more challenging ones to acquire. Ensuring my husband and I show love and respect to each other and our children through all the tough times, for example, is remembering to lock the doors at night. I believe our national security has a “softer” side too. It involves demonstrating commitment to America’s principles when challenged and when we are afraid. These more intangible aspects of security are just as important as building the world’s strongest military and most capable intelligence apparatus.

Read the rest of the interview at the Picket Fence Post.

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