Reporting from Washington -- In the bitter debate over the nation's counter-terrorism policies, former Vice President Dick Cheney has introduced an assertion that substantially raises the stakes.
Twice in the last two weeks -- including during his speaking duel with President Obama on Thursday -- Cheney has said that the Bush administration's approach may have saved "hundreds of thousands" of lives....
But terrorism experts said that though it is possible to envision scenarios that involve casualties of that magnitude, no evidence has emerged about the plots disrupted during the Bush administration to suggest that Cheney's claim is true.
"It's an easy thing to say and a difficult thing to prove," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. "I think it's another broadside in this ongoing feud."
One particularly interesting tidbit, if you read the entire thing you will discover this gem as the last sentence:
Obama has also made assertions in the counter-terrorism debate that are difficult to assess. In making the case Thursday for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, he said that the island prison had "likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained."
But "nobody knows that for a fact," Schmitt said. "That is the reason why this is such a hard debate in some ways -- because until one actually sees the intelligence they're sitting on, it's virtually impossible to make a judgment that what either Obama or Cheney is saying is spot on."
Interesting, isn't it, that Cheney is demanding that intelligence be released, but Obama doesn't want it to be? That alone should tell you something important about this "feud". The events reported yesterday about North Korea testing a nuclear device on par with the bomb that exploded over Hiroshima, should also tell you something important.
Michael Rubin notes:
Reports suggest that North Korea today tested a nuclear device on par with the bomb that exploded over Hiroshima. The test is an indictment of more than 15 years of misguided diplomacy. Rather than win diplomatic pause, we and our allies in KEDO have given North Korea billions of dollars in aid and subsidies while they pursued this milestone unmolested an unabated..
It is doubtful that Pyongyang was ever sincere in its engagement. While some Clinton hands blame the Bush administration for the breakdown of the Agreed Framework, the more honest diplomats acknowledge that the evidence of North Korean cheating had simply grown too great to bear. The best argument those defending the process could come up with was that North Korea had violated only the Joint Declaration of North and South Korea on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a rather silly argument given the incorporation of the Joint Declaration into the Agreed Framework and the larger point that North Korea simply did not abide by agreements.
The question now comes whether we will learn from the failures of both engagement and multilateralism. The links between Pyongyang and Tehran are strong. The arguments made now with regard to Tehran parallel those made 15 years ago with North Korea. The timeline won't be the same, however, since North Korea has shown willingness to proliferate, selling technology to the highest bidder. Obama faces a real test with regard to Iran. Desperation to engage and willingness to admit guilt for imagined sins while seeing innocence in an adversary is not a strategy
I would like to look at this issue from a psychological perspective.
Gerard Baker once wrote in an article that proposed an alternate history of Iraq ; one where Saddam Hussein was permitted to stay in power by the international community. He makes this important point at the end of the article:
[T]hat judgment should encompass not just the consequences of what was done but the consequences of what might have happened had it not been done. The consequences of what was done in Iraq are easy to see and hard to look at. The consequences of what might have been are by their nature unrecordable. But we know that history’s greatest tragedies could and should have been avoided, but never were.
The consequences of what might have been are indeed unrecordable. The thing about prevention is that...it prevents really bad things from happening. By the very act of preventing a bad thing from happening, you can never then prove that it might have occurred in the first place.
Critics can then claim that the countermeasure or preventive action was not really necessary to begin with (as we see Obama and the left doing about enhanced interrogation and waterboarding.
If you are successful, the event you fear will not happen. So, were you wrong to try to prevent it?
Likewise, because the terror plots the Bush Administration interrupted and their consequences were successfully prevented from happening, many people now --especially those that hate Bush and Cheney to begin with--will argue that nothing of significance occurred and will attempt to blow it all off. We see the scorn being heaped on the "dimwits" in NYC, for example, who were stopped from bombing a synagogue and a military base, though their intent was clear. You see the same scorn and derision every time some dimwit terrorist is caught and prevented from doing what he planned.
Gee, if only those "unsophisticated dimwits and bumbling holy warriors" from 9/11 had been infiltrated by the hapless FBI....
This kind of thing, which is the hallmark of foolish and clueless sites like the one linked above, is worse than foolish thinking. This is stupid and dangerous thinking. It is psychological denial taken to the nth degree.
If you take any murderous plot by the most dimwitted and bumbling of holy warriors--motivated by their sincere desire to kill us and all we stand for-- to their logical conclusion, they would have resulted in serious death and mayhem. By the logic of the critics of prevention, since nothing happened, there is no evidence you were successful. Or, since the perps have IQ's below most farm animals, their intent means nothing at all. Please tell all this to the innocent grade school children, or the mentally handicapped people Al Qaeda and other groups routinely recruit to be suicide bombers.
The sarcastic "critics of prevention", by the way, always morph into the pontificating "critics in hindsight" that blast away without mercy when there is a "failure of imagination"; or for "not connecting the dots"; or because "not enough planning in advance" when something terrible occurs.
Thus you have the infallible logic of the critc of prevention, and the ready-made fall guy in whoever is courageous enough to put his money where his mouth is to try to prevent something terrible from happening.
The infallible logic is this: since the terrible event was prevented from occurring, what possible evidence exists that it would have taken place? Hence you can only "prove" that prevention would have worked if you don't use it.
The ready-made fall guy is created by the infallible logic. If the terrible event occurs and was preventable, and you did nothing--YOU ARE TO BLAME FOR ALLOWING IT TO HAPPEN. If you prevent the terrible thing from occurring, but you cannot prove that it would have occurred if you hadn't prevented it--THEN YOU LIED, PEOPLE DIED FOR NOTHING, ETC ETC.. In short, you will be damned if you do prevent the terrible thing from happening; and damned if you don't.
In the end, it matters what people said and what they did or did not do. Putting events in perspective requires that kind of analysis, and so, articles like Baker's provides a real service to anyone who needs a dispassionate and rational evaluation of current events without resorting to the mass hysteria and selective amnesia that so characterizes the MSM, the Democrats, and the antiwar fanatics.
We come now to why anticipation (a mature psychological defense, and one of the few that is conscious and deliberate) is so superior to denial. The former prevents disasters, while the latter enables them.
Many on the left, including most of the Democratic Party leadership and our current POTUS are in major denial about terrorism (or should I say, "man-made disasters"?). Their spokespeople and pundits routinely claim that "fear of terrorism" was "inflamed and exploited" by the Bush Administration for the purpose of gaining power:
Bush opponents must finally overcome the one weapon which has protected George Bush again and again: fear. Fear of terrorism is what the Administration has successfully inflamed and exploited for four years in order to justify its most extreme and even illegal actions undertaken in the name of fighting terrorism.
This argument has been repeated many times by many on the left; and most recently by President Obama in a speech at the National Archives. What they are all basically arguing is that, instead of using a healthy and appropriate psychological defense called anticipation against terrorism and the Islamic fanatics within and without our society (who most certainly want to kill us and destroy our society)--we should instead switch to a psychotic one, denial. They insist that the fact that there have been no more 9/11's in the U.S. is pure dumb luck and that they were right to be more fearful of the evil Bush and Cheney than the poor oppressed dimwit holy warriors. Bush and Cheney were "shredding our Constitution", while the jihadists only wanted to kill us. Even now with Bush and Cheney out of office, we continue to hear this argument a lot. Quite a lot, acutally.
Besides the ongoing psychological displacement, there is a strong element of paranoia here too. And a noticeable touch of both projection (ask yourself who is really desperate about getting and keeping power) and hysteria. This exaggerated emotionalism from the left is used to describe normal people justifiably afraid of irrational fanatics not amenable to reason. The implication remains even in the current Administration that Bush and Cheney used these "inappropriate and irrational fears" of terrorism to "justify illegal actions" like torture.
While the US was busy fighting this illusory enemy, Bushitler and Darth Cheney were amassing power and intended to set themselves up as dictators and destroy our freedom. Only the brave and powerful Obamessiah was able to save us from such a horrible fate.
Anticipation is the realistic anticipation of or planning for future discomfort. This defense mechanism includes goal-directed and even overly careful planning or worrying--depending on the situation. Anticipating realistic events such as death or illness or separation and loss; and then consciously utilizing personal insight and self awareness to mitigate the worse effects, if possible is the height of maturity and healthy psychological functioning.
Let me quote George Vaillant (page 71):
Anticipation involves realistic and affect-laden planning for future discomfort. [...] of all the mature defenses, anticipation rearranges outer and inner reality the least. Rather than use self-deception, anticipation spreads anxiety out over time. It involves the self-inoculation of taking one's affective pain in small, anticipatory doses....In the worlds of the psychoanalyst Heinz Hartmann, one of the pioneers of ego psychology, "The familiar function of anticipating the future, orienting our actions according to it and correctly relating means and ends to each other...is an ego function and, surely, an adaption process of the highest significance."
Most of us, like Scarlet O'Hara would prefer to "think about it tomorrow." Making a list of worries before embarking on a trip seems like a reasonable cognitive coping strategy. But nobody likes to worry; thus we "forget" to act on such advice. We would never miss planes or forget to floss our teeth if we had consciously pondered the unpleasant consequences in advance. Moreover, it is far easier to plan voluntarily for neutral events like plane trips and tooth decay than for affect-laden events like funerals and the real costs of war.
Anticipation, and the appropriate and realistic worry that an attack like 9/11--or even worse-- are the psychological factors that are protecting us, even as I write this post. President Bush and his administration by their actions have given the American people 6 years without an attack on the homeland (not that he will get any credit for it; and not that the left will credit the Patriot Act or even the increased surveillance of the NSA; or the actions of the military in Afghanistan or Iraq). To the political left, our safety is all a big mysterious and magical state of being independent of any actions to ensure it.
Or, as the left and its current leaders prefer to imagine: we have been safe because of "fear-mongering" and that the threat/risk is overblown.
Of course it is. Until another 9/11 happens. Or until something worse occurs. Then they will be all over Bush and Company for lying to us about the threat and screaming, "WHY DIDN'T YOU PROTECT US?" like the little children they are. Here is more from the Greenwald article:
What must be emphasized is that one can protect against the threat of
terrorism with courage, calm and resolve – the attributes which have always
defined our nation as it has confronted other threats. Hysteria and fear-mongering are the opposite of strength. The strong remain rational and unafraid.
Excuse me? What does this moron think the U.S. has been doing since 9/11? The courage, calm and resolve of both President Bush and our stalwart military forces has been nothing short of inspiring. I ask you to consider who it has been since 9/11 who "lack resolve". Who has been whining and sniping and insisting that "the war is lost" and that we should just give up and go home? Who is now saying that it's a fait accompli that Iran get nuclear weapons? Who is hysterical with rage at the very idea that Israel might do something to prevent that scenario from happening?
The left talks about "hysteria and fear-mongering" all the time. But, what is it except hysteria and fear-mongering that motivated people to believe that Bush and Cheney's goal was not to protect America, but to destroy it? What was it except hysteria that only focused on the daily death counts from Iraq, and not on the context of what our soldiers are dying for? What was it except hysteria that even today maintains that the death of 3000 innocent Americans at the hands of religious fanatics in ONE DAY is nothing to be concerned about; but the death of as many professional soldiers in eight YEARS is enough to cut and run? What is it but hysteria that negatively emphasizes the waterboarding of three (THREE!) high value terrorists in a desperate attempt to keep America safe from another attack?
There is NO OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE that the previous Administration did what it did in order to accumulate power. Quite the opposite, in fact. Bush persevered despite overwhelming opposition and negativ polls. Not only that, but there was a peaceful transition of power from Bush to Obama; a graciousness and a deliberate attempt to pass the torch in as civil a manner as possible. Compare that civility with the continuous incivility of Obama and his henchmen who cannot seem to utter a sentence without denouncing the former President and his people.
I would also like to point out to the denialists, that the strong are rational and appropriately afraid. Because if they are not afraid, they will die. If they do not take steps to protect themselves, they will die. If they ignore for too long the threats amassing to kill them, even the strong will die.
I am not arguing that there should be a carte blanche given to the executive branch of government. But even the Founding Fathers understood that during a war is no time to be arguing like children about who gets to do what. The Constitution allows the president to assume powers and responsibilities that he otherwise would not even want. It is truly hysteria and fear-mongering that motivates the left and the Democrats now.
I know peole who trembled in their beds at night in Ann Arbor, waiting for the Bush Gestapo to come and take them away. Underneath all the posturing about civil rights and such, paranoid people are actually very fearful people who are desperately avoiding dealing with their fear; that's why they are in denial of reality.
Those of us who prefer to be proactive and anticipate for future attacks are the ones who are dealing directly--and appropriately-- with our fears. We prefer anticipation and prevention over denial and disaster.