Monday, August 15, 2005

9/11-20 Hindsight


Anybody that has lived more than 5 years in the U.S. that reads or understands English knows the phrase “hindsight is 20-20.” The 9/11 Commission, their Report, and all of the Able Danger controversy swirling around it all deal in hindsight. Here’s a tip, one that I try to apply in my daily business life: I don’t care whose fault it is – the task still needs to be completed.

People on both sides of the aisle are all-too-eager to point fingers of blame. The Bush Administration was at fault. The Clinton Administration was at fault. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe both.

I will tell you who was perhaps MORE at fault than any specific governmental agency or official, though: U.S. citizens.

Our leaders are placed where they are by us. They reflect our values, just as they should. Quite simply, there was no mandate for allowing military intelligence and law enforcement to work together. It had never occurred to average U.S. citizens that a militant religious group would want to stage suicide attacks in which they would kill as many Americans as possible. 60 years without a direct threat to one’s survival tends to make one forget about safety and security.

9/11/2001 was one of those turning points in American History where our fundamental concept of what we value changes. In a world where hundreds of thousands of people can be vaporized without warning in a split second it’s now easy to see that military intelligence and law enforcement should work together, that a more holistic approach to American defense is necessary. But such a thing simply hadn’t entered our minds; individual privacy was more important than group threat assessment. What we got for our lack of sociological foresight was over 3000 dead, human sacrifices at the altar of the god of Tolerance.

Before we point fingers at anybody else, especially political ones, we should first examine ourselves. What would have been the public reaction if the Patriot Act had been passed in 1998? You know the public would have screamed about privacy issues. Islamic Militants have been around a long time – we just didn’t want to take them seriously. Perhaps it was some updated, politically-correct version of prejudging “those poor third-world savages.”

Our policy of providing security for ourselves has been primarily reactive for the past 60 years. But times change – new circumstances force us to be proactive. We weren't psychologically or sociologically ready to address a threat to our survival, and we paid dearly for it.

I still don’t care whose fault it is – the task still needs to be completed.

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