PREFACE | Chapter One
National Security Mom: Why “Going Soft” Will Make America Strong
I lead two lives. For years I believed that my life as a terrorism analyst in the United States Intelligence Community and my life as a mom were separate. But after twenty years of government service and fifteen years of parenting, I have realized they are not.

I have been in this “war on terror” for a long time. In 1993, I published a paper warning about Osama Bin Laden and the extremist movement he represents. Ever since, most of what I have done at work has been a secret I could not share with my husband and five kids. But without their support, I would not be able to do all I’ve done. Over the years I have come to realize that everything I ever needed to know about national security, I learned from them. And all we need to do as a nation to ensure our security is to follow the advice we give our children. If only we had the courage to do it.

So often parenting is all about tough love. We teach our children the hard lessons of life so they are prepared to cope in the real world. This is how we pass on security—by helping them be independent and responsible. I can’t help my daughter finish the science project she failed to start if I want her to learn accountability and respons-ibility nor can I teach my son to be proud of who he is if I let him cave in to peer pressure. Teaching our children that life is not fair is hard. And it is also a difficult concept for us to face as Americans. No matter how much we spend on counterterrorism, there will be terrorists. Thousands of men and women will do all they can, but they are not going to be able to prevent all surprises.

We will survive if challenged again because our national security is more enduring than the absence of an attack. If we are on pins and needles, wondering every day if our government is going to be able to stop every plot, is that security? Isn’t that the very definition of insecurity—constant fear and anxiety over what might happen?

The strength and security of my family is not dependent upon our home security system. It stems from the good example my husband and I set for our children and the unconditional love we consistently demonstrate. Our nation’s security is not dependent upon the lack of terrorist attacks. Our security rests with the endurance of our values and principles of democracy and our commitment to them. Our strength is not the projection of power or the absence of challenge. It is the character our nation demonstrates when challenged that makes America strong and secure.

This book is not intended to be a rigorous, academic treatment of the origins of, or trends in, terrorism. I fully admit there are generalizations and simplifications of the complicated world we live in. This book is also not intended to be a commentary on previous administrations’ national security and foreign policies. I do not believe foreign policy and security choices fall neatly into any political party’s platform. It is merely the reflections of a mother who has been involved in counterterrorism for a long time. My hope is to encourage others to think about our nation’s security in very different terms from the way it is typically depicted by demystifying the issue and describing it in terms that every parent can understand.

I have divided the book into Three Parts:

Part One describes how the rules parents try to live by also apply to making our nation strong and secure.

Part Two offers a discussion of how the lessons we teach our children are appropriate for our nation and imagines a day when our children are America’s leaders.

Part Three takes some liberties with famous quotes about parenting to highlight the similarities between parenting and governing a nation. This section is meant to encourage parents, especially mothers who tend to be less inclined to engage in national security and foreign policy debates, to participate in important government decisions.
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