A Stopped Clock

by digby

Setting aside a Schlaes-infected, ahistorical first paragraph, David Brooks is actually making sense:

All this money and technology seems to have reduced the risk of future attack. But, of course, the system is bound to fail sometimes. Reality is unpredictable, and no amount of computer technology is going to change that. Bureaucracies are always blind because they convert the rich flow of personalities and events into crude notations that can be filed and collated. Human institutions are always going to miss crucial clues because the information in the universe is infinite and events do not conform to algorithmic regularity.

Resilient societies have a level-headed understanding of the risks inherent in this kind of warfare.

But, of course, this is not how the country has reacted over the past week. There have been outraged calls for Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security to resign, as if changing the leader of the bureaucracy would fix the flaws inherent in the bureaucracy. There have been demands for systemic reform — for more protocols, more layers and more review systems.

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.

Many people seem to be in the middle of a religious crisis of faith. All the gods they believe in — technology, technocracy, centralized government control — have failed them in this instance.

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.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration has to be seen doing something, so it added another layer to its stage play, “Security Theater” — more baggage regulations, more in-flight restrictions.

I hope Brooks knows that he's talking to his pants-wetting right wing buddies, because they are the ones who seem to believe they've magically transported into a real life version of 300 every time a jihadist sneezes and run to the TV demanding that we instantly turn ourselves into the old East Germany so we can be "safe."

Terrorists crashing planes is a scary thing. But the truth is that crashing planes is a scary thing. Yet people get on them every day by the thousands with the knowledge that it might happen --- for any number of reasons, all of which we hope are being prevented by the people we employee to ensure it that it is. But sometimes planes go down. It's part of life. This time it didn't. Hooray. You'd think we'd be celebrating the quick thinking of the passengers and instead we're hiding under the bed snuffling about how daddy didn't keep us safe.

Terrorism is an awful thing, but this bozo from Nigeria with explosives in his pants is not going to destroy America as we know it even if he did manage to do the unthinkable. But we can do that for him by allowing these panic artists, fearful children and political opportunists to turn the nation upside down every time a bozo like him attempts something. It's nothing but an excuse for the authoritarians to take the country further down the police state road in the name of "keeping us safe" while the media gets to pretend they are living out some virtual Ernie Pyle fantasy, except with really good hair and make-up.

The panic is the point. That's why they do terrorist attacks in the first place. And the damned bozo certainly succeeded, at least among the elites who, as far as I can tell, have worked themselves up into some kind of fugue state and are now practically speaking in tongues. It's embarrassing.

Update: Adele Stan at Alternet writes about the nation's PTSD, here. It's interesting. Did the last decade traumatize us so badly that we've lost our ability to cope?

(I actually think that most of the people who repeatedly rend their garments about "Islamofascism" are either war porn junkies or political opportunists. But that's just me.)