Honor the Threat

Posted: Jun 30, 2006 12:01 AM
Honor the Threat

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?

Are the New York Times, the L.A. Times and others honoring the threat when they publish classified information about our anti-terrorism methods? Judging from their actions it would appear that Bill Keller at the New York Times, and others, see a greater threat from the Bush administration than from those engaging in acts of jihadist terrorism.

Ron Suskind wrote a book about what he calls Vice President Cheney’s “one percent doctrine” developed in response to 9/11. According to Suskind, Cheney said that “if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction … the United States must now act as if it were a certainty.''

Cheney has said on several occasions that faced with the information we had about Saddam Hussein, following 9/11, the administration would have been irresponsible had it not taken action to remove him from power. This is something that voters will have to consider when they vote in congressional elections this year and in the Presidential election in 2008. As I have written previously, voters will have to ask on which side of the decision-making equation they want their leaders to err in this post-9/11 world.

Jay Tea points out that to honor the threat is not a call for paranoia, but that it is “a fool who hears the threats and ignores them.” He said regarding the seven men in Florida arrested for plotting an attack on the Sears Tower, “After all, five years ago, who would have thought that less than two dozen guys armed with stuff you can buy at a dollar store for less than 20 bucks could end up killing almost 3,000 people in one morning?” On which side of the equation would voters have authorities err?

It has been almost five years since the attacks of 9/11 and there has, thankfully, not been another attack on U.S. soil. Unfortunately, though, many have forgotten the lessons of 9/11. In an interview at the blog, The Real Ugly American, Mort Kondracke addressed this subject:

“I am appalled at how lots of liberals act as though 9/11 never happened. And 9/11 was probably the scariest moment of my life. Even the Cuban Missile Crisis I never mistakenly I never thought we were in any danger of actually having a nuclear war; actually we were in danger but I didn’t know it or I didn’t think it. But the weeks after 9/11 when you didn’t know when you were going to get hit by another terrorist attack, possibly even worse than 9/11 was as scary a moment as I have ever experienced.”

In November we will find out just exactly how many have forgotten, and how many are honoring the threat.