Ridge Urges Vigilance
The entire world has an interest in dealing with the conditions that create very fertile recruiting grounds for Islamic jihads, he said.
"What's needed is an international response to an international scourge. We have to understand that for a generation and a half or two, there have been schools in various parts of the world that teach and preach an ideology of hate. It's a perverted interpretation of the Koran, but we have seen that there are true believers."
Ridge noted that almost a quarter of the world's population is Muslim, but that only a very, very small segment of that population has adopted that ideology.
People are going to have to accept "the reality of a possibility" of another attack, he said, as well as accept the reality that the risk can only be managed, not eliminated. He recalled the nuclear threat of the 1970s and 1980s — a very real threat that was sustained over nearly two generations.
"What did we say to ourselves as a country?" he asked. "We said, 'Let's get on with being
Ridge, a former two-term governor of Pennsylvania, Vietnam veteran and former assistant district attorney for Erie County, Pa., was sworn in as the nation's first Homeland Security chief on Oct. 8, 2001, less than a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
His job was to create a national strategy for homeland security. He underscored that what he created was a national, not federal strategy.
"You can't secure the country from
He built the Office of Homeland Security by pulling together more than 20 different groups and slices of different agencies, forming an agency that employed 170,000 people. He recalled it as "a very vast and compressed transition." Ridge resigned from the Homeland Security post on Feb. 1 this year.
Ridge said the whole country should be integrated into management of the threat risk, including local government, state government and the private sector. The private sector, he noted, must be engaged in the effort as aggressively as possible.
One sector of the economy that did something about security and safety long before 9/11 was the financial sector because of concerns about access, background checks and cyber attacks. That sector had already embedded many security measures prior to 9/11 that the fledging Office of Homeland Security was able to duplicate and adapt for its own use, he pointed out.
"In the process of going down that path, we're going to find that some of these innovations have applications elsewhere to make us not only safer and more secure but healthier and potentially more productive."
With the threat of terror, along with the challenge of illegal immigration across
Despite the challenges ahead, Ridge said he's confident of
"That's why I think the free world will ultimately prevail over terrorists," he concluded.