Skip to comments.HERBERT E. MEYER: The Lessons of 9-11
Posted on 11/12/2004 9:32:32 AM PST by Tolik
Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan administration as special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence and vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council. His new video is The Siege of Western Civilization.
Not even President Bushs biggest fans claim that hes articulate, and the President himself cheerfully pokes fun at his inability to use the English language very well. But when it comes to the War on Terrorism, this isnt a laughing matter. Every time the President gives a major speech about the War as he did again on Monday, in New Jersey he winds up asserting his policy, rather than explaining it. He alludes to the lessons of 9-11, but never quite spells out what these lessons are. While the Presidents speeches are satisfying to those who already agree with him, they arent persuasive to many of those who dont.
The immediate danger is that this latter group proves large enough to cost the President his re-election. The longer-term danger is that, even if the President wins on November 2, support for his policies overseas will continue to erode. This will make it more difficult in the years ahead for him and, to put it bluntly, for Western civilization itself to prevail. So its worth taking a moment to try and spell out the lessons of 9-11 lessons the Presidents own policies make clear that hes learned, and lessons all the rest of us both here and overseas must learn quite literally to save our lives.
A Tolerance for Horseplay
Sometimes, the best way to approach a big point is with a small story: Imagine that you are taking a pack of cub scouts to a ball game. For those of you whose lives have not been enriched by this experience, what you get is a day in which the kids will push each other, shove each other, throw food and generally wreak havoc all to the incessant, high-decibel sound of jokes and insults, most of them relating to bodily functions. The trick is to allow the kids to have fun and blow off steam, and to intervene only when serious injury appears likely. In short, you need to have a very high tolerance for horseplay. You survive by focusing all your thoughts on the prospect of sitting in your La-Z-Boy that evening, with the remote-control in one hand and a drink in the other.
Now imagine that you take this pack of cub scouts to an exhibition of eighteenth-century Venetian glass. My friends, your tolerance for horseplay drops to a very small fraction above zero:
Okay, guys, listen up. From the moment we walk through these doors, there will be no pushing, no shoving, no throwing food and absolutely no goofing around. The cost of breaking one piece of this stuff is unacceptable, and Oops, sorry, just wont cut it. So if I even think one of you is about to give a push, or a shove Im coming down on your head like a ton of bricks and youre out of this pack forever. No apologies, no exceptions, no second chances. Any questions, gentlemen?
Those kids will have no trouble grasping the point: its a different set of circumstances, so the scoutmasters attitude has changed. The cost of a disaster is high, so his tolerance for horseplay is low. If you dont like it too bad.
What we learned on September 11 is this: We are now living in a world in which a small number of people can kill a large number of people very quickly. They can hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings, spread anthrax spores through the mail, pour botulism into a citys water supply, detonate a dirty backpack filled with radioactive waste in a shopping mall, or even get their hands on a nuclear device and set it off in one of our cities. And so the lesson of 9-11 couldnt be more clear: our tolerance for political horseplay must drop, to just a small fraction above zero.
Now you see why going after al Queda and other terrorist groups is necessary, but not sufficient. As long as there are states willing to play footsie with the terrorists by giving them sanctuary, selling them arms, laundering their money, providing false passports, or helping them to shift people and equipment around the world and as long as there are states whose own policies and actions threaten mass murder civilization cannot be safe. Even if we had a first-rate intelligence service (and the CIA, alas, has a long way to go before its razor-sharp and playing offense), in todays world trouble happens too fast to stop it. By the time you see an attack coming, its too late. And so horrific will be the catastrophe that merely getting the creeps who did it wont be good enough. Since we cannot reasonably expect to stop every planned attack to be successful 100 percent of the time we no longer can tolerate the kind of regimes that would even think of helping terrorists or of launching their own attack.
This is why Saddam Hussein had to go. Whatever may turn out to be the truth about Iraqs weapons of mass destruction and it looks like the recent Duelfer report has corrected the CIAs infamously wrong 2002 National Intelligence Estimate theres no question but that Saddam Hussein was playing footsie with al Queda, with the PLO, and with Hamas, and that at the very least he was working with France and Russia to get the UN sanctions lifted and then resume his WMD program in some form. In todays ultra-dangerous world, this is more than enough to justify our overthrow of his regime.
Some Leaders are Crazy
Equally important, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein sends a clear message to other governments that our tolerance for horseplay has dropped. Libyas Muammar al-Qadhaffi obviously got the message. At least so far, neither Irans mullahs nor North Koreas Kim seem to have figured it out. Whether they will in time to avoid a head-on clash with the US and our allies in the civilized world remains to be seen.
Personally, I doubt it and for a reason that rarely gets talked about in polite company: the leaders of some countries are, quite literally, insane. There is nothing new or startling about this. It is sometimes the case that crazy people are also very talented, and throughout history such people from time to time have achieved political power. Think of Adolph Hitler, or Joseph Stalin. (Hitlers insanity is well understood; if you dont think Stalin was equally nuts, read Simon Sebag Montefiores magnificent new history of the Soviet dictator and his Politburo comrades, Stalin: Court of the Red Tsar.) What is new is this: in todays world the combination of political power and insanity is too dangerous to tolerate. In a rich country, this lethal combination gives rise to nuclear weapons and the itch to use them, or to sell them to someone who will. And even in a poor country, a leader who is insane can use the wherewithal of a state its sovereign territory, its treasury, its diplomatic cover either to acquire weapons of mass destruction that are less expensive than nuclear weapons, such as chemical or biological weapons, or to help terrorists to acquire these weapons.
Oliver Wendell Holmes was one of our countrys greatest jurists, and one day a fellow judge accused Holmes of shifting his position on some issue. Holmes replied: When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?
The lesson of 9-11 is that the world has changed, so we must change our policy for civilization to survive. Of course honorable people can disagree over how best to deal with a world in which a small number of people can kill a large number of people very quickly, in which access to weapons of mass destruction is widespread, and in which the leaders of some countries are clinically insane. By all means let us argue over which specific countries and organizations we need to target, how best to do it, and when. But there is no excuse for refusing to acknowledge that circumstances have changed, and that so too must our approach to national security.
Whatever may be his faults and shortcomings, President Bush gets it. So do Great Britains Tony Blair, Australias John Howard, Italys Silvio Berlusconi, Spains (sadly defeated) Jose Maria Aznar, and others who understand what it will take to protect civilization from destruction. They resemble nothing so much as scoutmasters who have taken on the responsibility for looking after the kids and getting them home safely. And the world leaders who criticize them resemble nothing so much as selfish and self-centered parents who let others do the heavy lifting while they go shopping or sit home with their feet up. A bit of gratitude for the scoutmasters would be nice. A bit of help would be even better.
"An open letter to Europe" The American Thinker Nov. 11, 2004 posted here: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1278392/post
"The Lessons of 9-11" The American Thinker Oct. 20, 2004
"Will a DNI Do It Right?" National Review Online Aug. 3, 2004
"Emergency Repair" National Review Online Jun. 14, 2004
"Intelligence Tenets" The Wall Street Journal Jun. 14, 2004
"Connecting the Dots" National Review Online Apr. 8, 2004
"Creating Work" National Review Online Mar. 29, 2004
"Mending the CIA" National Review Online Feb. 9, 2004
"What this War is About National Review Online Oct. 7, 2003
"What's Wrong with the CIA? Hillsdale College "Imprimis" Oct., 2003
"Memo to the 9/11 Commission National Review Online Jan. 6, 2003
"Doing Intel National Review Online Oct. 17, 2002
"The CIA Must Learn to Play Offense The Wall Street Journal Oct. 1,
About Herb Meyer: http://www.siegeofwesternciv.com/HerbMeyer.htm
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See his another article posted today: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1278392/posts
Too bad the left is unlikely to read it.
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