Monday, January 04, 2010

David Brooks - The Makings of a Resliant Nation

As I said yesterday, the general handling of the Christmas Bomber incident has been less than stellar. David Brooks' latest NY Times column captures this absurdity really well.

Much of the criticism has been contemptuous and hysterical. Various experts have gathered bits of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s biography. Since they can string the facts together to accurately predict the past, they thunder, the intelligence services should have been able to connect the dots to predict the future.

Dick Cheney argues that the error was caused by some ideological choice. Arlen Specter screams for more technology — full-body examining devices. “We thought that had been remedied,” said Senator Kit Bond, as if omniscience could be accomplished with legislation.
In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, “Listen, we’re doing the best we can, but some terrorists are bound to get through.” But this is apparently a country that must be spoken to in childish ways. The original line out of the White House was that the system worked. Don’t worry, little Johnny.

When that didn’t work the official line went to the other extreme. “I consider that totally unacceptable,” Obama said. I’m really mad, Johnny. But don’t worry, I’ll make it all better.

Brooks claims that it's this maturity - the allowance for risks, the understanding that the government is made up of people and will never be perfect - that makes a nation resilient. Alas, most of our leaders would rather get fired up and blame each other, rather than accepting this plain reality.

Would a Republican administration handle a failed terrorist attempt like this any better? They didn't, really. Not because they were evil, or incompetent - but because these stopping terrorists, while letting people remain free, is a fundamentally difficult (impossible?) problem to solve.

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