The Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger thinks he knows how the Fort Hood shootings happened:
In our time, nothing was bigger than the nearly 3,000 killed on September 11. But anyone who got involved with the development of public policy then knows that for the next seven years the battle never stopped over the details of the Patriot Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, then Guantanamo, then waterboarding, renditions and secret prisons and all the other issues that for some could be summed up in two words: “Bush-Cheney.”
This will never come up in the Lieberman hearings next week, but I think that nonstop policy battle is why Hasan’s overseers dropped the ball.
The most-heard reason for the possible failure is political correctness. No doubt. But Sen. Lieberman’s committee should avoid making this its main line of inquiry, because that is a problem without a policy fix. It minimizes the real problem.
The problem is confusion. The combatants at each end of the spectrum in the war over the war on terror know exactly what they think about surveilling suspected terrorists. But if you are an intel officer or FBI agent tasked with providing the protection, what are you supposed to make of all this bitter public argument? What you make of it is that when you get a judgment call, like Maj. Hasan, you hesitate. You blink.
Now everyone thinks the call was obvious. But it wasn’t so obvious before the tragedy. Not if for years you have watched a country and its political class in rancorous confusion about the enemy, the legal standing of the enemy, or the legal status and scope of the methods it wants to use to fight the enemy.
In war, uncertainty gets you killed. It just did.
Yes, if we could all just stop being so confused and see things more clearly, we could do something about all the problems. It should go without saying that the idea that we can simply do away with “uncertainty” when managing the tension between liberty and security is nonsense. Did authorities either miss or fail to act on what, in retrospect, seems like solid evidence of Hasan’s increasing radicalization? I think it’s fair to say yes. Is there any evidence that this failure was the result of “confusion” generated by the “nonstop policy battle” between the Bush administration and its critics? No, there isn’t.
Essentially, Henninger’s argument is that the practice of democracy itself set the stage for the Fort Hood tragedy. If everybody would have just shut up after 9/11 and not distracted President Bush with stupid questions about warrantless surveillance and indefinite detention and torture and the Constitution, then maybe the FBI wouldn’t have been so scared of hurting peoples’ feelings. And of course it goes without saying that this applies only to criticisms coming from the left. Conservatives who challenge Democratic presidents are just patriots asking tough questions. Progressives who challenge Republican presidents are sapping the nation’s vital essence.