(Page 2 of 2)
PERHAPS THE COMMISSIONERS could take a day away from their lawyerly nitpicking and ask if there might be something in the American character or psyche that makes us especially vulnerable to surprise attacks. (They ain’t going to do it, but one can dream.) Could this be the dark side of a peculiarly American virtue? Part complacency and smugness in our own strength and perceived invulnerability but, also, a kind of naïve trust and belief that since it is unfair to hit someone when he isn’t looking, people won’t do that. Jimmy Carter was shocked, shocked when the Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan. And our intelligence services before World War II — good as they were — labored under an administration whose Secretary of War didn’t believe that “gentlemen read other gentlemen’s mail.” This presupposed, of course, that the world was full of gentlemen.
Old habits die hard. The CIA and, especially, the FBI were restricted in what they could do before 9/11 by policies that required them to act like gentlemen. No racial profiling. No sharing of foreign and domestic intelligence product. No peeking; no fair.
In one sense, the commission’s self-inflicted irrelevance is … well, irrelevant. The lesson of 9/11 has already been learned and a doctrine to prevent its repetition has been formulated. Without actually saying it, President Bush made it plain that as a nation, we are tired of being surprised by our enemies, over and over again.
What else, after all, is the Bush doctrine of preemption? We are not, it says, going to wait around for the opportunity to turn the other cheek. If you are planning on hitting us with a surprise attack, be prepared to be surprised, yourself.
For this new doctrine to work, two things are necessary. First, intelligence must be good (we can’t afford to be “gentlemen”) and the commission hasn’t done much to make one hopeful on this score. Nor, in truth, has President Bush. Admiral Kimmel and General Short were relieved after Pearl Harbor. George Tenet is still running the CIA, insisting that the agency did a good job.
And, then, preemption isn’t much of a doctrine unless your enemies believe you mean it. In undermining the administration that formulated the doctrine, the commission makes it less credible.
So, when the hearings are over — and it can’t come soon enough — the commission may have made us more vulnerable to a repeat of 9/11. Will, in short, have made the situation it was created to solve, worse.
Surprise, surprise.p> Geoffrey Norman is a writer in Dorset, Vermont. br> /p>
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?