Notes from the Editor: Disasters in North America

Supplement: Proceedings of the Workshop on Preparing for and Responding to Disasters in North America

While most topics involving Homeland Security relate to domestic policy considerations, there are also foreign policy implications. Nowhere is this more relevant than in the United States’ relations with its North American neighbors of Canada and Mexico. Both of these nations have been directly impacted by U.S. security changes since 9/11. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in 2005, ushered in additional challenges posed by natural disasters and the realization that such threats do not recognize borders. The papers published in this special issue of Homeland Security Affairs developed as a result of a series of academic and practitioner conferences on the topic of the evolving security relationship between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. These articles are presented as working papers from those conferences and, as such, have not been put through Homeland Security Affairs’ peer review process.

One such conference occurred in San Antonio, Texas, November 6-7, 2006, titled, “Preparing for and Responding to Disasters in North America.” Co-sponsored by the Homeland Defense and Security Education Consortium, the University of Texas San Antonio, and East Carolina University, the conference provided three panels focused on cross-border cooperation related to natural disasters, pandemic flu, and catastrophic terrorism. Lance Robinson of the Battelle Corporation captured the conference proceedings; he summarizes the main points made by each of the panelists (to include the rapportuer reports from each of the panels) in “Proceedings of the Workshop on Preparing for and Responding to Disasters in North America.” Dr. Robinson’s extensive notes provide a detailed summation of the topics discussed at the conference, as well as insights into the nature of the discussions around the topics and the panelists themselves.

Abelardo Rodriguez offers Mexico’s perspective on security cooperation with the United States and Canada in his paper, “Mexico’s Insecurity in North America.” Dr. Rodriguez, a recognized expert on Mexico’s national security policy, sheds light on the internal political dynamics of Mexican politics and challenges the nation faces in articulating a coherent national security strategy, much less an integrated response to U.S. desires to increase regional security cooperation. Dr. Rodriquez focuses on opportunities lost during Mexico’s democratic transformation under the Fox administration (2000-2006), highlighting Mexico’s conflicted response to the events of 9/11. He brings the discussion of “perimeter security” up to date within the context of the security threats faced by Mexico today and the internal political challenges faced by the new Calderón administration in any expanded security agreements within the hemisphere.

In “Catastrophic Terrorism at the Border: The Case of the Canada-United States Border,” Todd Hataley explains Canada’s security relationship with the United States and some of the challenges that each nation would face in light of a terrorist event that would precipitate the closing of the U.S.-Canada border. Dr. Hataley provides insights into some of the challenges Canada faces in providing enhanced security along the U.S. northern border, arguing that it is no longer acceptable to call it the “the longest undefended border in the world.” He argues that Canada must take steps to allay America’s fears of a terrorist incident in the United States that originates in Canada, by virtue of the nation’s lax immigration policy. Also, Dr. Hataley highlights the vulnerability of both countries to terrorist attacks against key border crossing sites between the two countries, which would have a devastating effect on the economies of both the United States and Canada.

Taking an historical perspective on bilateral and multilateral security cooperation between the nations of North America in particular, and of the Western Hemisphere in general, Richard J. Kilroy, Jr. explores the impact of the U.S. response to homeland security and homeland defense on those relationships in “Perimeter Defense and Regional Security Cooperation in North America:  United States, Canada, and Mexico.” Dr. Kilroy explores previous security relationships established since WWII and the context for security cooperation between the nations of the hemisphere. He expands on these relationships in a post 9/11 world, with the emergence of U.S. Homeland Security Strategy and new defense organizations, such as the U.S. Northern Command.  Dr. Kilroy argues that the notion of perimeter security and expanding, rather than contracting, security relationships provides a unique frame of reference for security cooperation, but it must be tempered by long-standing historic, cultural, and political factors which place limits on “security friendship” between neighbors.

This special issue is the first in what we hope will be a continuing series of Homeland Security Affairs supplements, sharing the working papers and proceedings of conferences debating homeland security issues and strategy along diverse and multi-disciplinary lines.

The Editor

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