NBC News “special correspondent” Ted Koppel is once again sounding like Jimmy Carter’s former Secretary of State in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. The headline was “America's Chronic Overreaction to Terrorism: The country's capacity for self-inflicted damage must have astounded even Osama bin Laden.”
“Terrorism is designed to produce overreaction,” Koppel proclaimed with his trademark arrogance. Bill Clinton’s lack of response to terrorist attacks during his tenure in office was a mark of high intelligence, not fecklessness, unlike Bush launching that disastrous Iraq war:
Critics may argue that Washington's feckless response during the Clinton years encouraged al Qaeda to launch its most spectacular and devastating attack on Sept. 11, 2001. But President George W. Bush also showed great initial restraint in ordering a response to the 9/11 attacks...
It was only 18 months later, with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, that the U.S. began to inflict upon itself a degree of damage that no external power could have achieved. Even bin Laden must have been astounded. He had, it has been reported, hoped that the U.S. would be drawn into a ground war in Afghanistan, that graveyard to so many foreign armies. But Iraq! In the end, the war left 4,500 American soldiers dead and 32,000 wounded. It cost well in excess of a trillion dollars—every penny of which was borrowed money.
Saddam was killed, it's true, and the world is a better place for it. What prior U.S. administrations understood, however, was Saddam's value as a regional counterweight to Iran. It is hard to look at Iraq today and find that the U.S. gained much for its sacrifices there. Nor, as we seek to untangle ourselves from Afghanistan, can U.S. achievements there be seen as much of a bargain for the price paid in blood and treasure.
At home, the U.S. has constructed an antiterrorism enterprise so immense, so costly and so inexorably interwoven with the defense establishment, police and intelligence agencies, communications systems, and with social media, travel networks and their attendant security apparatus, that the idea of downsizing, let alone disbanding such a construct, is an exercise in futility.
Koppel wants terrorism de-emphasized to the point that it’s seen as less dangerous to America than household ladder accidents:
Will terrorists kill innocent civilians in the years to come? Of course. They did so more than 100 years ago, when they were called anarchists—and a responsible nation-state must take reasonable measures to protect its citizens. But there is no way to completely eliminate terrorism.
The challenge that confronts us is how we will live with that threat. We have created an economy of fear, an industry of fear, a national psychology of fear. Al Qaeda could never have achieved that on its own. We have inflicted it on ourselves.
Over the coming years many more Americans will die in car crashes, of gunshot wounds inflicted by family members and by falling off ladders than from any attack by al Qaeda.
There is always the nightmare of terrorists acquiring and using a weapon of mass destruction. But nothing would give our terrorist enemies greater satisfaction than that we focus obsessively on that remote possibility, and restrict our lives and liberties accordingly.
Ten years ago, Koppel was on set at ABC slashing the Iraq war just before it began, as Brent Bozell documented:
Koppel set the tone for the meeting by undermining America's moral authority: "There's a sardonic two-liner making the rounds in Washington these days: ''How do we know that Saddam Hussein has biological and chemical weapons? We have the receipts.' Nasty, but there's an element of truth to it."
As he warned of a neocon conspiracy, Koppel even compared Team Bush to Hitler: "Not since Mein Kampf has a geopolitical punch been so blatantly telegraphed, years ahead of the blow."