Another Perspective

Assumptions

Guess who noticed the Pennsylvania Cessna wasn't shot down...

By 5.16.05

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"It's the assumptions that'll hurt us."

Uncle Pundit himself is given to assuming, so I bit. "What assumptions?"

"Those that stem from letting that plane and those pilots get by with it."

Oh, the two guys in the Pennsylvania Cessna. Yeah, but, no harm, no foul. Right?

"Right this one time. But think of the assumptions. The Defense apparatus assumes that since the Cessna wandered around aimless-like, radio-silent, and finally over the Vice President's digs, just blocks from the White House, noticed two F-16s, a helicopter or two, and another craft trying to wave them off and wobbled away, that the right thing was done. Like you say: no harm, no foul. Couldn't be more mistaken."

How so?

"The defenders assume that letting the entire warning apparatus collapse is not dangerous, a precedent set. An assumption established. The National Guard guys climb out of their F-16 cockpits more sure than ever that punching off those missiles would've been wrong."

What would have been right? Shooting them down?

"You bet."

My God, Uncle. Killing two wandering Pennsylvania pilots?

"Absolutely. That puts both assumptions on solid ground."

Like --?

"Like there is an established no-fly perimeter, well-advertised, known to all pilots, private and commercial. And that it will be defended, against all comers. You forget the second assumptions."

Whose?

"The guys who might want to try the same thing, but for real, with bio-stuff aboard, and then maybe a big dirty thing as the final payload once on target -- White House, Capitol, doesn't matter. They can now safely assume something."

Which is --?

"That those Defense guys are not just reluctant; they may be paralyzed. Inaction saved the day, one time. And that establishes the assumptions, on both sides."

But, Uncle, can you imagine the stink if those F-16s had gotten the word, and dropped that plane?

"Nothing like the stink if some real terrorists decide to repeat the stunt, wander around the perimeters and finally get as close as those guys did. They'd be home free, the press corps and staffers choking on sarin and finally the big wham, and the entire District of Columbia is trying to backstroke the Potomac."

But if that Cessna goes down --

"There's an official inquiry. And no question that the right thing was done. And done in the knick of time. The perimeter was defended. And the dozens of guys who've got the same thing in mind, but with heavy mischief in mind, have got to consider another assumption -- that it won't work.

"Two assumptions are validated -- offense and defense."

But if you're right, Uncle, somebody in the Defense Department ought to be reprimanded. Consciously or not, they have set us up.

"Aha. Another correct assumption."

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.