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Friday, January 01, 2010

Bound to fail sometimes?

Writing in the New York Times, David Brooks says that the anti-terror measures taken by the United States since 9/11 were 'bound to fail sometimes,' and decries many of the reactions to last week's attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a plane over the skies of southern Canada and Detroit.
There have been outraged calls for Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security to resign, as if changing the leader of the bureaucracy would fix the flaws inherent in the bureaucracy. There have been demands for systemic reform — for more protocols, more layers and more review systems.

Much of the criticism has been contemptuous and hysterical. Various experts have gathered bits of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s biography. Since they can string the facts together to accurately predict the past, they thunder, the intelligence services should have been able to connect the dots to predict the future.

Dick Cheney argues that the error was caused by some ideological choice. Arlen Specter screams for more technology — full-body examining devices. “We thought that had been remedied,” said Senator Kit Bond, as if omniscience could be accomplished with legislation.

Many people seem to be in the middle of a religious crisis of faith. All the gods they believe in — technology, technocracy, centralized government control — have failed them in this instance.

In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, “Listen, we’re doing the best we can, but some terrorists are bound to get through.” But this is apparently a country that must be spoken to in childish ways.
Sorry, but I don't buy that. The initial reaction that the 'system worked' was so ridiculous as to be contemptible. That reaction should have been "the system failed. We are lucky it did not fail more severely. We will investigate why it failed and make adjustments for the future."

The next reaction was for Obama to pretend that nothing had happened for four days. That was also absurd. You're the leader. Lead. Don't send a bunch of underlings to the plate. If Obama had held a 10-minute press conference Friday night and announced that he was returning to Washington to deal with the situation sometime over the weekend, it would have calmed a lot of the storm. But he didn't. He pretended that nothing had happened.

The outrage came later. The outrage was caused by facts coming to light about this terror attack (and yes, it was a terror attack even if all those people on the plane escaped unharmed) that the government may have tried (and seemingly did try) to suppress. Those facts included Abdulmutallab being on a list not to be allowed into England, a call from his father to US government agencies warning that he was likely to undertake a terror attack (which should have set bells and whistles ringing so loudly that he should never have been allowed to fly), his apparently having boarded the plane in Amsterdam without a passport(!), and the arrest of an as yet unidentified second person from the flight.

The outrage is directed at Napolitano's rank incompetence and unsuitability for the position that she holds and at President Obama's insistence on not only removing the term 'war on terror' from Washington's lexicon, but on pretending that the war itself no longer exists. The outrage is predicated on this administration's decision that there is no longer a need to fight a war on terror, which war was prosecuted vigilantly by the Bush administration from September 11, 2001 to January 19, 2009.

Two questions for Brooks: Would your reaction have been the same if that plane had gone down and three hundred people (if not more) had been killed? Second, if the system is 'bound to fail sometimes,' why (bli ayin hara - warding off evil eyes) doesn't it happen to the Israelis? What do they know that Obama and Napolitano don't? (Hint: It's been discussed at length on this blog and elsewhere over the past week, including in the pages of the New York Times).

As one of Obama's mentors would say, the chickens came home to roost last Friday. If nothing changes, we can look to more incidents like last Friday's happening in America's skies, probably with much deadlier consequences.


At 4:38 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Nothing is likely to change. The Administration's new rules are the political equivalent of rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic and won't make us safer. If the system really worked, there be no concern about the outcome.


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