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Pentagon's homeland defense chief predicts long war on terror

The war on terrorism will last as long and take as many resources as the Cold War did, the commander of the North American Aerospace Command and Northern Command recently said.

Air Force Gen. Ralph Eberhart, who was in charge of the nation's air defenses when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked, said the U.S. government should prepare the public for a long haul in the global war on terrorism and use resources that were developed to fight abroad for homeland defense.

"Those who think that this war on terrorism is short-lived, just like the Gulf Wars, just like Kosovo and just like Bosnia, I think they're mistaken," Eberhart said Feb. 25 during a conference sponsored by the American Forces Communications and Electronics Association. "It's more like the Cold War than any war we've experienced in our lifetime. It's going to take the same commitment across this great nation to win the global war on terrorism. It's probably going to take the same time frame. And it's going to take the same dedication of resources, intellectual capital and fiscal [capital]."

"Unless we do that and make time work for us, as it did during the Cold War … time will work for the terrorists, and I guarantee you that's what they're counting on," Eberhart added.

Eberhart worries that U.S. resolve will wane as the memory of Sept. 11 fades, leaving the nation vulnerable to more terrorist attacks.

Using a sports analogy, he said resources that were developed for "the away game" during the Cold War and conflicts in the 1990s should be used for "the home game" in the realms of homeland defense and homeland security. For example, he said satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, various sensors and, in some cases, urban warfare tactics should be used.

"How do we use the things we already have in a different way with different rules and a different environment than we envisioned using them?" he asked. "We want to fight the away game…but we must ensure that we're prepared to fight the home game."

He said the country specifically needs better information sharing between the military and law enforcement agencies, more human intelligence capabilities and the ability to do wide area surveillance over the United States, preferably from space.

James Carafano, senior research fellow for defense and homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, agreed that the war on terrorism will be like the Cold War.

"We truly believe this is going to be a long, protracted conflict, much in the same way that the Cold War was a long protracted conflict … because you have an enemy that's dispersed and diffused and will be difficult to root out," he said.

According to Carafano, the main lessons from the Cold War that should be used during the war on terrorism are that the country needs an offensive and defensive strategy for security, continued economic growth, and a commitment to the protection of privacy and civil rights.