Sunday, August 08, 2004

the ingrid syndrome

Lambert, over on corrente, takes those of us to task who didn't jump on the "wag the dog" bandwagon last week. And he uses one of my favorite movies (Gaslight) to illustrate the point.

According to Lambert, by lamenting the resounding "we don't believe you" response to last week's terror alert, we must necessarily be ready blame that response for forcing Bush into the despicable act of outing an asset (Khan) and blowing a British counterintelligence operation. Well, not exactly.

In my mind, at least, the outing is definitive proof that Bush et al puts reelection before all other priorities, including the welfare of this country. This is not an easy indictment to make, although I have rarely found myself willing to defend this administration.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I think the driving force behind my comments last week was the sense that a large segment of the left was automatically discounting the alert, putting no thought or analysis into their belief, merely using it as a tool to ridicule the administration. This is a bad thing for at least three reasons:

  1. Merely spouting off a preformed opinion without real evidence, following some script of conventional wisdom, is just generally sloppy thinking. Following scripts--sound familiar? It's exactly what we excoriate in our newspapers and other media.
  2. It divides the country into the panicked and the ridiculers, two groups utterly incapable of communicating on this subject. Equally important, the ridiculers are setting themselves up to fail and fail big when the next terrorist attack happens. Which means their credibility is totally shot--for good reason, but it will also taint those of us who are politically aligned with the ridiculers but who show some basic respect for the issue of terrorism, if not this Chicken Little administration.
  3. It virtually ensures that the ridiculers will be completely unprepared to deal with a real terrorist attack when it happens. Which again damages credibility.
I thought that the media coverage last week was a mostly good balance of respect and skepticism, covering the alert and what it meant, but also asking hard questions, and reporting negative information when it leaked. I sincerely hope that some good journalists are keeping their mouths shut because they're putting together solid reports on the Khan outing.

For the rest of us, I think we have a responsibility to have respect for the capabilities and intent of terrorists around the world, including our own home grown variety. This doesn't mean having a blind faith in whatever Homeland Security chooses to announce. It does mean being prepared to deal with an event with something more than self-justifications.