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The Madness of Reactive Politics

Posted By David Solway On November 29, 2010 @ 12:10 am In FrontPage | 5 Comments

The latest TSA scandal that has America up in arms was not only entirely predictable but also clearly indicative of all that is askew with the Obama administration’s foreign and domestic policies. In the broader view, American officialdom has neither the ability to anticipate a problem and so act to prevent it from happening nor the capacity to respond in a rational and effective way to the problems it has not adequately foreseen. American policy in general is wholly reactive; further, the reaction is always misdirected and serves only to aggravate the quandary it is presumably attempting to resolve.

We observe such bungling obtuseness on the geopolitical stage where its reply to the Iranian nuclear imbroglio, the sporadic eruption of violence on the Korean peninsula, clan warfare and endemic corruption in Afghanistan, continued insurgency in Iraq, Venezuelan belligerency and Palestinian intransigence is, in every case, misguided and counter-productive. Iran continues to be “engaged” even as it sprints toward the bomb, sanctions notwithstanding, North Korea bribed, Afghanistan botched, Iraq mismanaged, Venezuela ignored, and the Palestinian Authority encouraged to persist in its refusal to negotiate meaningfully with Israel.

Clearly, this is an administration devoid of both common sense and even minimal political clairvoyance, ensuring a more incendiary future than we might otherwise have expected. It is an open question which is worse: the inability to assess a threatening situation or the incapacity to mitigate its consequences, though perhaps it doesn’t matter since this administration is guilty on both counts.

On the home front, we see the same gross incompetence at work. Perhaps the most glaring issue is the undeclared war of the drug cartels on the Mexican border, to which the government has responded by…not responding—except, of course, by suing the state of Arizona for trying to do something about it and fill the federal vacuum. Some reaction! As for the current farce being daily enacted at the nation’s airports, this is simply another sign of what we might call the administration’s “structural ineptitude,” that is, the temptation to apply every conceivable solution except the right one.

A jihadist stuffs explosives and a TAPT fuse into his shoe; the reaction is to have millions of fliers remove their shoes for inspection. Terrorists pack explosives into gels and liquids; the reaction is to confiscate every can of shaving cream or bottle of shampoo while the lines of passengers stretch into the far distance. The Christmas bomber stuffs 80 grams of PETN into his underpants; the reaction is to introduce “naked scans” and groping “pat downs” whose invasiveness and vulgarity are enough to deter people from flying in the first place.

A short while ago, a determined jihadist attempted to assassinate a Saudi prince by detonating an explosive device secreted in his anus. Fortunately for the prince, the terrorist on this occasion was the only thing to hit the fan. But the tactic will surely be repeated by yet another anal-retentive wannabe and, after a passenger jet explodes in mid-flight and investigators figure out what happened, the TSA may well react by instituting cavity searches and instant colonics or devising new and more hazardous radiation probes. What else can we expect from our authorities? It gets even more interesting. We now know that Al-Qaeda is planning to use surgically inserted bombs, which may or may not be detected by high-specification X-Ray machines. Meanwhile it will take longer for many people to board a plane than to fly to their destinations, assuming they still want to.

We can imagine the bouts of hilarity convulsing the terrorist circles, for they have not only made fools of American officials and held airline passengers hostage to their maneuvers, but with every lame and cretinous reaction on the part of the TSA they have won another battle in their war against America and the West. The airline industry is suffering, Americans are changing their travel patterns and the economy takes yet another hit. Chalk one up for the terrorists.

Such is the fruit of a psychology of perpetual deferral, of “solving” a problem by moving it to the next level of magnitude, which characterizes the current American rejoinder to every menace it faces, whether abroad or at home. To be reactive rather than proactive guarantees precisely the kind of result which the administration is trying to avoid. Foreign policy requires political discernment and evident decisiveness in confronting the nation’s adversaries, either by foreseeing a looming danger in order to circumvent it or responding in such a manner as to defuse the possibility of its recurrence. Mere rote reaction is a losing proposition and promises nothing except a more intense and complex replication of peril. The same applies on the domestic front. Simply to react like a Maginot general, putting measures in place to meet the previous threat, allows the enemy to concoct ever new and unprecedented means to carry out his purposes unhindered.

The real solution, of course, is to target the enemy rather than to react serially to his endless cascade of methods, procedures and contrivances. The real solution is to touch the enemy’s junket, not the passenger’s junk. The TSA, for example, obviously needs to hire well-trained and dedicated personnel. It must install fail-safe identity pre-screenings, a proper interrogation system similar to that successfully employed by the Israelis, and stringent profiling of the appropriate demographic. There is no other feasible solution to the dilemma. Both the wider civilian population and the terrorists know this. Only an administration seeking to appease not just its avowed assailants but its own radical base apparently does not, or, what is no less disturbing, is frankly unwilling to activate whatever dwindling resources of intelligence and dignity remain to it. From its perspective, it is preferable to be politically correct and dead rather than morally honest and alive—at least as far as its citizens are concerned.

But, regrettably, what we see occurring in airports across the country is only a local simulacrum of the failed policies of an essentially reactive, helpless, possibly disingenuous, and massively incompetent administration, unequipped to deal with the world as it is. By refusing to act with foresight, prudence and conviction, and loath to recognize certain home truths, it has prepared the ground for inevitable catastrophe. This must be said, no matter how indiscreet it may sound: It is not the mullahs or the Taliban or the drug lords or the jihadists who represent the gravest threats America now confronts. It is Obama, his administration and his Party that pose the greatest danger of all to America’s increasingly fragile security.


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