"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Victory for Whom?

When news reports first came out this past weekend that an attempted attack on Times Square failed because of the would-be bomber's incompetence, the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.  The Washington Post however, sees things a little differently:
When Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. stepped up to the lectern at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, it was more than an unusual middle-of-the-night appearance trumpeting the swift arrest of an alleged terrorist. It also marked a rare moment of glory for the attorney general....

A good week doesn't necessarily make for a turnaround. But with the arrest of Faisal Shahzad in connection with Saturday's attempted bombing in Times Square, Holder and the law enforcement agencies he oversees were able to claim a victory for the administration.
Even though the government failed to prevent the attack and almost bungled the arrest of the prime suspect, only just catching him in nick-of-time before his flight took off for Pakistan, the Post describes the arrest of Faisal Shahzad as a "glorious victory."  This is reminiscent of the Chris Rock comedy sketch about the person who expects you to be proud of them because they didn't go to jail.  "What do you want, a cookie?  You're not supposed to go to jail," he retorts.

Similarly, the American people reasonably expect the Justice Department to swiftly arrest the suspects in major crimes.  This begs the question, does the Washington Post believe that our government is really so dysfunctional that when the government succeeds at something it is supposed to do, it is a "glorious victory?"  Moreover, the Post describes this not as a victory in the war on terror, but for the Obama Administration--that is to say, a political victory.  More to the point, does the Post believe that it is a "glorious victory" when the Obama Administration is only just barely less incompetent than would-be terrorists?

All joking aside, there is something more ominous in this episode.  In both this case and in the failed Christmas Day underpants bombing, the al-Qaeda network clearly did not deploy their A-team.  In both cases, horrific loss of life was only averted by the would-be bomber's own incompetence.  One has to wonder if these attacks were even meant to succeed, or if instead, the terrorist masterminds who still survive in some cave in Afghanistan are using these attempts to probe for weaknesses in our defenses.  If this is true, these failed attempts are victories not for us, but for al-Qaeda.

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