Here’s Peggy Noonan in the WSJ reaching high indignation and alarm, after reviewing a general lack of federal preparedness for the aftermath of a WMD attack:
After the inspector general’s report, Paul McHale, a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania who also served as an assistant secretary of defense under George W. Bush, told the Los Angeles Times: “There is a sense of complacency that has settled in nearly a decade after Sept. 11.” The paper also quoted Randall Larsen, the former executive director of the commission that gave the government low marks in January: “They just don’t see the WMD scenario as most likely,” he said.
They don’t? They must be idiots. They must not be reading all the government reports of the past eight years, declaring terrorist attacks on U.S. soil not only likely but virtually certain.
There are undoubtedly many faceless bureaucrats making poor decisions for the government, over-matched by their tasks. There are also a lot of people who used to work in and around the government whom we could also describe as… not possessed of greatly impressive analytical skills.
Noonan seems to have missed the difference between “terrorist attack” and “WMD scenario.” Extending this confusion, she focuses throughout her piece on 9/11, but never pauses to note that the weapons about which she says she is worried – nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons – weren’t involved in 9/11. Jumbo jets were converted into WMD, by operatives exploiting specific vulnerabilities – easy access to the cockpit, instructions always to cooperate with hijackers, etc. – that for the most part no longer exist.
Other than garbling whatever she’s heard, or has read, or thinks someone else may have read, or thinks she herself would have read, in “all of the government reports,” Noonan relies on highly non-specific musings from Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissinger. “What happens,” Kissinger is said to have asked rhetorically, “if we woke up one morning and found that 500,000 people had been killed somewhere?” Well, what indeed – but how exactly is this event supposed to have been brought about – by whom, and to what end and with what expectations? It obviously can be “conceived of,” but conceiving of a likely scenario, a real weapon really available to real people used to achieve real objectives in the real world, is a different matter.
Maybe the idiots are adequately well-informed after all.