FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fool’s Paradise

About a year ago, I had lunch with someone who then held a relatively high position in America’s homeland security forces. During our conversation, I casually referred to “somebody setting off a suitcase nuke in an American city.” He replied, “That will happen.”

I therefore found striking the headline in this Sunday’s Washington Post: “U.S. Sees Drop in Terrorist Threats.” The first paragraph of the story went on to say,

Reports of credible terrorist threats against the United States are at their lowest level since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to U.S. intelligence officials and federal and state law enforcement authorities.

The intelligence community’s daily threat assessment . . . currently lists, on average, 25 to 50 percent fewer threats against domestic targets than it typically did over the past two years, said one senior counterterrorism official.

What is going on here? Are we really safer, or is Washington living in a fool’s paradise?

Three factors seem to have led to this new confidence in our homeland security. The first is real, the other two are delusions. The real factor is that our security forces may have gotten over the Chicken Little Syndrome, where any indicator sent them squawking in panic. As the Post story reports,

Counterterrorism officials said the atmosphere, particularly in the Washington area, also has calmed because they are less jittery and less inclined to warn the public about every vague, unsubstantiated threat. . .

“People are more hesitant to pull the trigger, and now think, ‘Let’s wait a day or two’ to investigate,” said John Rollins, former chief of staff for DHS’s intelligence unit.

This change is for the better. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) color-coded warnings had become a national joke.

Less good is the second factor: our Washington-based intelligence services are forgetting the threat of the “unknown unknown,” terrorists who understand how our intel system works and know how to evade it. The Post reports that people outside Washington see this danger:

Several officials in urban areas that are considered prime targets, said they worried most about what law enforcement is not detecting. “I’m not so comforted” by the drop in intelligence warnings coming out of Washington, said one senior U.S. intelligence official based elsewhere. “I’m concerned about what is going on under our radar scope. And I’m worried about the radar scope.”

This concern is valid. It would not be difficult for our enemies to game our sometimes less-than-sophisticated intelligence process, and thus learn how to spoof or bypass it.

The third factor is an even greater worry: Americans seem incapable of grasping our enemies’ concept of time. We are an impatient people; they are not. We want results fast; they please Allah by simply carrying on the struggle, leaving results in his hands. To Americans, “oldies” are ten years old; Osama bin Laden muses about the loss of Spain in the 15th century.

In his new book, The Fourth Power, which argues that America today has no grand strategy and needs one, former Senator Gary Hart hits this nail on the head:

The war in Iraq shortly led to guerilla operations against U.S. and UN presences but did not immediately stimulate retaliation against the U.S. homeland. It is necessary to recall, however, that al Qaeda documents captured in Afghanistan substantiate the connection between the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia following Gulf War I in 1991 and the wave of terrorist attacks that began with the first attack on the World Trade Center two years later. It will take some time before we know whether initiating a war against a major Arab state makes us safer or more in danger, more secure or less. Terrorists have proved to be patient.

Patient indeed, as you can be when you have, literally, al the time in the world.

It could be years before a suitcase nuke goes off in an American city. It may be several decades before America gets hits with a genetically engineered plague that kills millions or tens of millions of Americans. But so long as we continue pursuing an offensive grand strategy, the goal of which is world domination, it is only a question of when, not whether, such events will happen. The paradise of fools turns into the purgatory of fools’ successors.

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail