Airline Attack Shows Obama's Listless Approach to Terrorism - Michael Gerson, Washington Post opinion.
The word "vigilance" is sometimes mocked as reactionary and jingoistic. As in: "We must be vigilant to protect the homeland during this duck-and-cover drill against communists under every bed because loose lips sink ships." But the failures in the war on terrorism during the past few months have been failures of vigilance. After warnings to American officials from his father, a radicalized Nigerian with ties to Yemen - holding a one-way ticket and no luggage - is allowed on a plane headed to Detroit. A man in Afghan military fatigues - covering a bomb vest - enters a CIA base in Afghanistan for an intelligence debriefing, without being screened. An Army psychologist - with a history of making provocative jihadist arguments and known to classmates as a "ticking time bomb" - is assigned to Afghanistan and reports for processing at Fort Hood. In all these cases - whether in the State Department, the CIA or the Army - some internal guard was lowered. After the Christmas attack, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano concluded, "One of the things that may come out of this awful day is perhaps a renewed sense of urgency." Her statement is a confession that vigilance has faded over time. Some of this is a natural process - a human desire for normalcy, the tendency of civilized people to repress unpleasant realities. Vigilance is like a knife that dulls when it is not used.