Mort Kondracke does it, but it doesn’t appear that Bill Keller does. Some people did it before 9/11, but there weren’t nearly enough of them that did. Immediately following the attacks of 9/11, practically everyone in the world did it, except those who bought Michael Moore’s “fictitious war” line. Almost five years after 9/11, the question of who does and does not “honor the threat” comes up time and time again in political discussion and debate, and promises to be a question November voters will consider.
Should we have removed Saddam Hussein from power? Should the NYT and other news organizations have published leaked classified information? How seriously should we take the threat posed by those recently charged with plotting to attack the Sears Tower? What measures should be used to extract information from those detained as suspected terrorists? The answers to all of these questions depends greatly upon whether or not those responding honor the threat.
I first heard the phrase, “honor the threat,” from fellow blogger Jay Tea at Wizbang, who described it as one of the greatest pieces of wisdom he ever learned. “Treat every single threat as serious, until proven otherwise.”
It is a truism of aviation. Lt. Russ Hellstern, flight safety officer at the USCG Air Station in Sitka, Alaska, says he learned it from Major John Christensen, USMC, who had used it many times to save his life.
“Here it is, "Honor the threat." That's it. Simple, poignant and the mother of all truisms…[it] encompasses the spirit behind bringing yourself and your crew back alive. Maybe the threat is the enemy, or the weather, or even your copilot with a head cold. Or maybe it is that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach telling you that something just ain't right. Whatever it is, I have learned to view each potential hazard as a living breathing threat. Honor each threat with preparation, examination, and the principles of operational risk management. By doing so, I have avoided some situations that, after a beer at the club, have made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end with the thought of losing the SGLI sweepstakes.
When it comes to the current problem of terrorism, who is honoring the threat?