Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Shortsighted and Foolish Among Us

This is a report that was 30 years too early (hat tip: Dagney):

Nearly three decades before the Sept. 11 attacks, a high-level government panel developed plans to protect the nation against terrorist acts ranging from radiological ''dirty bombs'' to airline missile attacks, according to declassified documents obtained by the Associated Press.
''Unless governments take basic precautions, we will continue to stand at the edge of an awful abyss,'' Robert Kupperman, chief scientist for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, wrote in a 1977 report that summarized nearly five years of work by the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism.
The group was formed in September 1972 by President Nixon after Palestinian commandos slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. The committee involved people as diverse as Henry Kissinger to a young Rudolph Giuliani, the once-secret documents show.
The Task force met once. ''It is vital that we take every possible action ourselves and in concert with other nations designed to assure against acts of terrorism,'' Nixon wrote in asking his secretary of state, William Rogers, to oversee the task force.
''It is equally important that we be prepared to act quickly and effectively in the event that, despite all efforts at prevention, an act of terrorism occurs involving the United States, either at home or abroad,'' the president said.
The full committee met only once, in October 1972, to organize, but its experts did get together twice a month over nearly five years to identify threats and debate solutions, the memos show.
Eventually, the group's influence waned as competing priorities, a change of presidents ushered in by Watergate, bureaucratic turf battles and a lack of spectacular domestic attacks took their toll.
But before that happened, the panel identified many of the same threats that would confront President Bush in the 21st century.
Committee members identified commercial jets as a particular vulnerability, but raised concerns that airlines would not pay for security improvements such as tighter screening procedures and routine baggage inspections.

I guess what this tells us is that defending our country is a choice we make, or a choice we put off as we pursue other priorities. The panel that evaluated this threat in the 70's seems to have done a particularly good job of predicting what was to come, yet we were preoccupied with the day to day realities of the Cold War, and had a difficult time imagining the reality of a war on terror. It was brought to our attention only by the isolated incidents (like the 1st WTC bombing or the USS Cole); and by then we were distracted by the potential opportunities for peace after the Cold War.

But we were shortsighted and foolish, weren't we? We did not take seriously the gathering threat to our nation. And we ignored the multiple warnings that we had over a 30 year period. We needed to cultivate the capacity to analyze national and international trends; rate them for their potential to impact our national interests at home and abroad, and propose a course of action to effectively deal with them. In other words, we needed to become proactive and not just reactive.

In a country whose elected officials are incapable of thinking beyond the next election and only seek to score points on the opposition, thinking and planning ahead is considered a waste of time and resources, since assigning blame after a tragedy always gets you more points. If you prevent something from happening, how would you prove it, and who would give you credit?

No, far better to oppose every action or reform; denounce any new idea; and impugn the integrity of anyone who has the courage to act; and then you are in a perfect position to play the blame game! Some of us are still extremely shortsighted and foolish.

And that is the kindest and gentlest way I can describe certain bubble-headed, intellectually-deficient morons, who for reasons that are beyond human understanding, are currently members of Congress. I wouldn't want to victimize the poor little dears, since I know how sensitive and fragile they are. So I won't say anymore.

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