JUST Slightly Shorter David Brooks: Excessive pants-pissing over the Crotch Bomber episode has the unfortunate effect of expanding centralized government, something I, as a fiscal "conservative", believe has a chilling effect on the very foundations of the Republic, unless carried out by a
The Interesting thing about this Brooks offering--I know "interesting" is too strong there, but it's a holiday and I'm keeping labor to a minimum--is in trying to put a name to just what it is he's up to. The best I've come up with is "Strawman in Reverse", where for "spurious misrepresentation of an opposing position", one substitutes "actual, if perhaps specious, argument advanced by your allies", the refutation of which is supposed to enhance one's reasonableness, and absolve the position which has thoughtfully provided the self-parody that began the exercise.
After Sept. 11, we Americans indulged our faith in the god of technocracy. We expanded the country’s information-gathering capacities so that the National Security Agency alone now gathers four times more data each day than is contained in the Library of Congress.
We set up protocols to convert that information into a form that can be processed by computers and bureaucracies. We linked agencies and created new offices. We set up a centralized focal point, the National Counterterrorism Center.
All this money and technology seems to have reduced the risk of future attack. But, of course, the system is bound to fail sometimes. Reality is unpredictable, and no amount of computer technology is going to change that. Bureaucracies are always blind because they convert the rich flow of personalities and events into crude notations that can be filed and collated. Human institutions are always going to miss crucial clues because the information in the universe is infinite and events do not conform to algorithmic regularity.
Okay, maybe this is just personal preference, but I'd really prefer you demonstrate your reasonableness by being reasonable in your own positions, instead of displaying how reasonable you sound while rejecting any that aren't, or that are, but sound embarrassing when someone else does the talking.
But, of course, this is not how the country has reacted over the past week. There have been outraged calls for Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security to resign, as if changing the leader of the bureaucracy would fix the flaws inherent in the bureaucracy. There have been demands for systemic reform — for more protocols, more layers and more review systems.
Sure, you, David Brooks, are not the sort of guy to demand the resignation of Janet Napolitano just because she said something you don't like while being a Democrat. So whaddya expect, a Good Citizenship Award? Your constituency is yourself, Dave; you'll forgive me for imagining that if it were Wifebeater County, AL, Snowbilly, AK, or Teabag City, ID, you'd be singing a slightly different tune, or if it were FOX News and not the NYT. You'll forgive me for imagining that if there were some palpable political advantage, other than the constant steam venting so many of your fellows require, you'd be numbered among the (suitably reticent or sadly reasonable) voices crying for her scalp.
This is bad enough. Y'know, it's perfectly understandable that you want to divorce yourself from the Lunatic party, but you really need to explain how you wound up in bed together, an' all smoochy an' stuff, in the first place. And you need to explain why it is that "mature viewpoint" you exalt has only now come back into fashion, and where it was hiding all those years when you drew a paycheck from the Weekly Standard, and the adolescent dependence on, and adoration of, The Incredible Drunk and Surly Two-Headed Daddy Administration was every American's patriotic duty. What's worse, I think, is that this is the sort of thing you people have been able to get away with since Reagan: not just the denial of the consequences of your actions, nor your responsibility for the actions of the people whose votes you've importuned since the Civil Rights Act of '64, but the actual denial that your positions are your positions. What fucking difference does it make--now--whether Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab killed 3000, or 10,000 people, or no one at all? He's been proven to be an agent of Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, East Djibouti, and the Four Corners Region. Q.E.Fuckin-D., man. One administration back we were justified in locking up bin-Laden's chauffeur for life without even charging him. The False Heel of Doom and the Dandruff Shampoo of Annihilation ring any bells for you, Dave? Now we've suddenly discovered it's possible to live without firing wildly in all directions at the least little provocation? Or imaginary provocation?
Hey, you guys have been playing tennis with no net for long enough now--it was the salient feature of American "conservatism" a generation before you were born, Mr. Brooks--without it doing your arguments much good that you no longer know the difference. Back then they got away with finding Commies under every bed, in every film credit, and on every Civil Rights march; their successors have been cashing in on the idea that Abortion is murder, but no one should be charged, that addressing injustice is the worst form of injustice, and, of course, that taxation with representation is tyranny. And all of this wrapped up in the mantle of Patriotism and the crossed bandoliers of We're The Only Ones Who Can Be Trusted With Our Nation's Defense. Even as it turned out, again and again, that you were the ones who could be depended on to be defeated by century-old technology in the hands of impoverished agrarians no matter how many trillions of tyrannically-seized tax dollars you spent.
You own it, bub. Interminable government growth in defense of Defense was fine in the 50s, when it was necessary to inflate the Soviet threat just to make sure everyone got it; it was fine when it pressured incumbent Presidents into ill-considered military action in Korea or Cuba or Vietnam; it was fine when Kennedy played the Brinkmanship game over meaningless missiles in Cuba. It was solid Gold when Reagan tripled the national debt building every weapon system the Brass proposed, in the name of conquering the Godless Soviets who were already bankrupt when he started. What difference does it make if it's Quemoy and Matsu or jockstrap bombs we're going off about? You're forty-eight years old, Mr. Brooks. Incontinent "Defense" spending is sixty-three. And the last time we bothered with anything as "mature", or old-fashioned, as actually declaring the national intent to conduct a war, rather than letting Big Daddy tell us what and who to hate, your parents were in nappies. You own it. We've sacrificed the lives of 5000 Americans, not to mention tens of thousands of others, like you care, not because Americans "indulged their faith in technocracy", but because their leaders set them on that path for pure political advantage, while people like you, people in a position to urge rational consideration, peed like excited puppies. Now we're supposed to be mature? Th' fuck's supposed to remember how, thanks to you?