October 1, 2004

So -- where's that attack you promised me?

Cori Dauber, writing on threats and warnings:

...But here's the thing: I have a friend who was an intelligence analyst, then taught intelligence for a number of years. One of the most important concepts he always impresses on any audience when he lectures about warning is that the very fact that intelligence analysts have warned policymakers changes the situation. It automatically raises the cost of the operation for the attacker, assuming policymakers take any steps at all.

So as soon as you warn, you increase the chance that the event you've warned about isn't going to happen. That means you've done your job successfully. But it also means, just as a fact of human nature, your credibility goes down.

You get called into the office of a very angry boss, standing there saying, do you have any idea how much money we just spent? not just that, do you have any idea how stupid we look in the press? So -- where's that attack you promised me?

The very success of the warning, decreases the credibility of the warning...

Waging war against terrorists requires patience. Endless grim cold-blooded patience. Free peoples are at a certain disadvantage, just because the rich variety of their lives works against focusing for a long time on one threat, even when nothing seems to be happening. Americans probably do better than some, because of the strong Jacksonian strain in our culture. Jacksonians have long memories. They were the indian fighters and the tunnel rats. They haven't forgotten Pearl Harbor, and the Bataan Death March. They won't forget 9/11 for a month of Sundays.

Posted by John Weidner at October 1, 2004 12:42 PM
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