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news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Slow Pearl Harbor:
   Interesting Retrospective

James Johnson and Robert Zarate write an interesting retrospective in the Weekly Standard on the conclusions of the Pearl Harbor debate and why we were surprised, and they apply that, not to 9/11, but the ongoing negotiations between the Iranians and Mohamed El Baradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, over the Iranian nuke controversy.

In the years following (Pearl Harbor), fierce debates raged--in congressional hearings and among historians--over how the United States could have been so completely surprised. But it was not until the publication of Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, historian Roberta Morgan Wohlstetter's 1962 Bancroft Prize-winning study, that the dimensions of this national tragedy came to be fully understood.
But another problem that concerned her deeply has received less attention--namely, what she termed "slow Pearl Harbors." Wohlstetter developed this concept in a 1979 essay in the Washington Quarterly, "The Pleasures of Self-Deception," and in a later, unpublished manuscript. Unlike the dramatic surprises of December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001, slow Pearl Harbors unfold when "the change at any given time seems innocent enough," but, over time, "the changes add up and can ultimately spell disaster." Here, she elaborated, "the problem is that after each small change even hindsight is not very clear.
Last week, El Baradei agreed with Western assessments that, once Iran's underground uranium enrichment complex at Natanz resumes operation, Iran will be within "a few months" of building a nuclear explosive. Still, he warned against attempts to use non-diplomatic--yet less-than-military--responses to Iranian intransigence.

In other words, these surprises are not so much unknown but buried in plain sight. We need mechanisms that will flush the trivial away and leave the truly relevant.

Jefferson called it "higher education".


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