by Ryan McMaken by Ryan McMaken
Since at least the 1940’s, a strange madness has consistently worked its way into the American psyche. Allegedly a people of "rugged individualism" and pragmatism, anytime the issue of national defense enters into the conversation, Americans quickly find a place to sit at the feet of their masters and be spoon-fed a myriad of half-baked speculations as to how much the American people must be willing to sacrifice in order to provide for government employees who never quite seem to know what they are doing, and are always fighting the last war.
These Americans who lie down and do what they’re told as soon as the stars and stripes is unfurled are the same people who claim to believe that "efficiency" and "government" are mutually exclusive terms. But, cart out the dog and pony show of patriotic songs and a few words from the Declaration of Independence, and government fantastically becomes the embodiment of honor and that "can-do" spirit. How the bureaucracy called "The FBI" or "The CIA" differs in any qualitative way from the bureaucracy called "the post office" or "the welfare state" can never be explained by these people. All they know is that when the government comes around asking for more money, more lives, and more power in the name of "national security," everybody had better fall into line.
Amazingly, this blind allegiance to the myth of national security persists even when we are confronted with the most blatant evidence of incompetence by those entrusted with keeping foreign belligerents from killing Americans. In the past few weeks, we have been exposed to the systemic disarray that abounds at the FBI and the CIA, yet it is extremely unlikely that we will hear much about reining in these out-of-control yet exceedingly ineffective government money pits.
We are already being told that the White House is interested in creating a job for a "director of national intelligence." This would be a job for a political appointee who could help bring the CIA, the FBI, and presumably a variety of other federal police forces together into one gargantuan agency (if I’m not mistaken, this is what the Dept. of Homeland security was supposed to be about.) Nevertheless, this new department of national intelligence will undoubtedly be an invaluable resource to the FBI and the CIA so that they can all get their stories straight the next time there is a massive intelligence failure. Then, this person can get up before Congress and tell everyone how much better a job his agency could do if it only had a few more billion dollars.
The rugged individualists out there will nod and talk bitterly about how those (insert whichever political party you’re not a member of) have prevented those honest hard-working folks at the CIA and the FBI from doing their jobs properly. In fact, they were so hard working that they couldn’t be bothered with getting their computer skills up to a fifth grade level or with updating their software to do things that your average small businessman would consider to be rudimentary. It’s tough fighting terrorists when people like David Koresh are on the loose, and you’re busy setting women and children on fire.
Sometimes, though, a government agency is so useless that it comes right out and admits it. Consider this week’s admission by CIA director George Tenet that the CIA needs five years before it can start any effective operations against Al-Qaeda. This isn’t the CIA’s fault of course, it’s the taxpayers’ fault for not giving them more money. While this line of argumentation by Tenet will undoubtedly help him get more leather furniture for his office, it is especially ingenious since, once he gets the American people to sign off on this five-year plan, the CIA can essentially shrug its soldiers anytime there is a terrorist disaster in the next five years. All the while they’ll be saying that if we had given them more autonomy years ago, we wouldn’t be in this mess now.
The most interesting part of this plan, though, is that Americans will no doubt be told to just stay put and wait while the feds tell us that nothing can be done to prevent a repeat of 9-11. Now that it has been pretty well established that starting a war in Iraq has been about as useful against Al-Qaeda as sending an army to The Congo would have been in fighting Hitler, we are now being asked to keep stirring up terrorism in the Middle East while the CIA teaches its people how to surf the internet.
Let us not forget that the stated reason behind the terrorism of 9-11 was American meddling in Saudi Arabia and Israel. And whether or not Bin Laden believes these are the only good reasons for killing American civilians is immaterial, for what we do know is that the millions of Muslims who see their countrymen killed by American missiles in Palestine or their neighbors beaten to death by American soldiers have become more sympathetic everyday toward striking back at the United States the only way they can.
What we have right now is an American government that seems to honestly believe that they have a right to interfere worldwide, but they have no responsibility in preventing the predictable blowback from killing Americans here at home. In other words, for the foreseeable future, American need to be prepared to sit around waiting patiently for terrorists to strike while thousands of young men and women in the Middle East are driven to joining terrorist organizations by endless wars care of Uncle Sam.
Both the FBI and the CIA could have fifty years to make good, and they wouldn’t be any closer to preventing disasters like 9-11. Perhaps in an attempt to console themselves and to believe the best about a culture of obedience that they have been born into, most Americans refuse to believe that federal agents are nothing more than bureaucrats with guns. They are just government employees protected by law from any competition, and thus any responsibility for their blood-drenched failures. We shouldn’t be surprised when they can’t read a memo any better than the surly clerk down at the DMV.
Ryan McMaken [send him mail] is a regular columnist for LewRockwell.com.