Monday, October 11, 2004

Fear and Anxiety

Charles Krauthammer--a psychiatrist as well as a pundit--has a great editorial in Time Magazine that discusses the value and appropriateness of fear and anxiety. Called "The Case For Fear-Mongering" it points out (in case you have forgotten) that the protection of America is what this election is all about.

The late 1940s and '50s were so pervaded by a general fear of nuclear annihilation that the era was known as the Age of Anxiety. That anxiety dissipated over the decades as we convinced ourselves that deterrence (the threat of mutual annihilation) would assure our safety.

Sept. 11 ripped away that illusion. Deterrence depends on rationality. But the new enemy is the embodiment of irrationality: nihilists with a cult of death, yearning for the apocalypse — armed, ready and appallingly able.

The primordial fear that haunted us through the first days and weeks after 9/11 has dissipated. Not because the threat has disappeared but for the simple reason that in our ordinary lives we simply cannot sustain that level of anxiety. The threat is as real as it was on Sept. 12. It only feels distant because it is psychologically impossible to constantly face the truth and yet carry on day to day.

But as it is the first duty of government to provide for the common defense, it is the first duty of any post-9/11 government to face that truth every day — and to raise it to national consciousness at least once every four years, when the nation chooses its leaders.

Meanwhile, John Kerry is saying the following:

‘’We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance,'’ Kerry said. ‘’As a former law-enforcement person, I know we’re never going to end prostitution. We’re never going to end illegal gambling. But we’re going to reduce it, organized crime, to a level where it isn’t on the rise. It isn’t threatening people’s lives every day, and fundamentally, it’s something that you continue to fight, but it’s not threatening the fabric of your life.'’

Nothing could more clearly tell me that John Kerry just doesn't get it. The world has fundamentally changed. WE ARE NOT DEALING WITH PEOPLE WHOSE CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR IS RATIONALLY MOTIVATED. If he persists in thinking that groups such as al Qaeda are just a bunch of criminals--prostitutes and gamblers--who need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, he will get us all killed. And you don't have to be a "fearmonger" to come to that conclusion.

UPDATE: Belmont Club has a nice analysis of the NY Times Magazine piece on Kerry's position on the WOT. Also, The Volokh Conspiracy (via Instapundit) has this:

But what remarkable analogies Kerry started with: prostitution and illegal gambling. The way law enforcement has dealt with prostitution and illegal gambling is by occasionally trying to shut down the most visible and obvious instances, tolerating what is likely millions of violations of the law per year, de jure legalizing many sorts of gambling, and de jure legalizing one sort of prostitution in Nevada, and de facto legalizing many sorts of prostitution almost everywhere; as best I can tell, "escort services" are very rarely prosecuted, to the point that they are listed in the Yellow Pages.
These are examples of practical surrender, or at least a cease-fire punctuated by occasional but largely half-hearted and ineffectual sorties.

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