Amanda Ripley

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Time to Set Aside Childish Things

4th Jan 2010 posted in Resilience

In case you missed it, David Brooks had a cogent critique of the homeland-security hysteria in the NY Times the other day:

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.

It does seem that we have become a nation of pansies when it comes to terrorism. It’s curious because we don’t expect the same paternalism when it comes to protecting us from other threats—guns, say, or automobiles. But when it comes to airplanes and violent Islamic extremists, there is apparently no limit to the indignities we will suffer.

Case in point: Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, on FOX on Dec. 29, 2009:

“I agree with Senator Dianne Feinstein [who] said the other day that, look, if you’re going to err in the war on terrorism, err on the side of overreacting rather than under-reacting. The Bush administration’s policy was to overreact. It seems like the Obama policy is to under-react.”

It takes my breath away, it really does.

Terrorists depend upon overreaction to be effective. They can never match their first-world enemies in weaponry or budget, so they target small, psychologically resonant targets to achieve outsized impact. They did it again on Christmas day over Detroit. What Mr. Barnes seems to have forgotten is that they did not succeed. Or did they?