Coming hot on the heels of David Brooks' well-received and surprisingly well-reasoned column in the New York Times, another paper that has become known for pants-wetting neoconservative apologism, the Washington Post, is making frightful sense. I don't have the print edition, so I can't see how saliently this column has been displayed there, but it does appear in the Washington Post online editorial section.
I first clicked the link to this column with muted dread, seeing the title of 5 myths about keeping America safe from terrorism as potentially the same sort of flirtation with reason that many other establishment media column titles dangle on their pages, only to ram the standard proboscis of stupidity and evil into my face the moment I moved in for a closer look. This time, however, I was treated to a missive of rationality and good sense that had me perpetually checking the column's URL to see if I had not accidentally clicked away from the Washington Post:
[Myth Number] 1. Terrorism is the gravest threat facing the American people.
Americans are at far greater risk of being killed in accidents or by viruses than by acts of terrorism.
(Errrrrrp! Turntable needle scrapes jarringly over the record.)
Say what now? Muhammad himself isn't standing at my bedroom door right now, ready to club me with his giant Qu'ran and decapitate me with his filthy scimitar? Who let this craaaaaazy blogger onto the hallowed, green-leathered Washington Post editorial page?
In 2008, more than 37,300 Americans perished on the nation's highways, according to government data. Even before H1N1, a similar number of people died each year from the seasonal flu. Terrorism is a real and potentially consequential danger. But the greatest threat isn't posed by the direct harm terrorists could inflict; it comes from what we do to ourselves when we are spooked. It is how we react -- or more precisely, how we overreact -- to the threat of terrorism that makes it an appealing tool for our adversaries. By grounding commercial aviation and effectively closing our borders after the 2001 attacks, Washington accomplished something no foreign state could have hoped to achieve: a blockade on the economy of the world's sole superpower. While we cannot expect to be completely successful at intercepting terrorist attacks, we must get a better handle on how we respond when they happen.
Quick, summon the cleansing light of Seriousness of a thousand Krauthammers, this dirty hippy propaganda is coming over me like a terrible shadow of Chamberlainian apeasement!
2. When it comes to preventing terrorism, the only real defense is a good offense.
The cornerstone of the Bush administration's approach to dealing with the terrorist threat was to take the battle to the enemy. But offense has its limits. We still aren't generating sufficiently accurate and timely tactical intelligence to adequately support U.S. counterterrorism efforts overseas. And going after terrorists abroad hardly means they won't manage to strike us at home. Just days before the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, the United States collaborated with the Yemeni government on raids against al-Qaeda militants there. The group known as al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula is now claiming responsibility for having equipped and trained Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who allegedly tried to blow up the flight. The group is also leveraging the raids to recruit militants and mount protests against Yemen's already fragile central government.
At the same time, an emphasis on offense has often come at the expense of investing in effective defensive measures, such as maintaining quality watch lists, sharing information about threats, safeguarding such critical assets as the nation's food and energy supplies, and preparing for large-scale emergencies. After authorities said Abdulmutallab had hidden explosives in his underwear, airline screeners held up flights to do stepped-up passenger pat-downs at boarding gates -- pat-downs that inevitably avoided passengers' crotches and buttocks. This kind of quick fix only tends to fuel public cynicism about security efforts. But if we can implement smart security measures ahead of time (such as requiring refineries next to densely populated areas to use safer chemicals when they manufacture high-octane gas), we won't be incapacitated when terrorists strike. Strengthening our national ability to withstand and rapidly recover from terrorism will make the United States a less appealing target. In combating terrorism, as in sports, success requires both a capable offense and a strong defense.
"Going after terrorists abroad hardly means they won't manage to strike us at home????" But, but, but... fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here! Fly paper! Remember fly paper?! We put it Over There and They get stuck to it and don't get into our Wheaties! Get me a paper bag to breathe into, Mildred, this dreadful "expert" is coming at my testicles with his godless liberal castrati scissors!
The article continues, puncturing so many other blindingly brainless myths -- er, I meant unassailably Serious truths! -- that you will be left wondering how much longer the Washington Post's grown-ups will be gone on holiday before they return to clean up this mess of reason the help has left.
I don't know who this Stephen Flynn is, but ever since reading his finger-wagging "facts," I can't get the sickly sweet smell of marijuana, unwashed armpits, and femininity off of me. Get me a cigar and a single malt infused with the potent musk of William Kristol and Michael O'Hanlon, Mildred, I'm about to surrender to something!