September 09, 2008

We Have Met the Enemy, and He is ...

SCIENTIST: This district is probably what you'd call the southwestern United States. That was before it was destroyed in the war.
SCIENTIST: Yes. According to history ... a man named Albert Shanker got a hold of a nuclear weapon.

-- Sleeper (1973)

A GROUP OF MY FRIENDS are in the midst of an animated e-mail discussion, prompted by this op-ed essay in The New York Times, about the myriad threats facing the United States from Our Enemies. The threat being discussed most is the explosion of a nuclear device somewhere within the United States' borders, most likely in the vicinity of Washington or New York.

One of my friends notes writer Jeffrey Goldberg's assertion that the chances of such a detonation over the next decade are perhaps 10 pc to 20 pc, although another of my friends dismisses this suggestion, saying "suitcase nukes" are not only quite detectable, but likely to kill the terrorists hauling them before they can be set off. My own viewpoint is more in line with my second friend's thoughts, and so I must say that I am not all that concerned about Our Enemies setting off a nuclear device within our borders, whether the target is Washington or Sheboygan, Wisc.

Generally speaking, I do not have a lot of faith in our Government, but one area where I think it has done well is protecting us against foreign terrorism. We have prima facie evidence of this in that there has not been another attack against our shores since 2001, despite several attempts which have come to public light. It stands to reason that if several attempts have come to public light, many more have been thwarted in secret. It also stands to reason that although the Government's power is limited within the borders of the United States, due to our political freedoms, its power is far less limited when operating in the international sphere. Thus, certain things have undoubtedly happened to make us here at home much safer. Bob Woodward, the journalist, has reportedly learned of certain secret programs that have caused untold numbers of our enemies to enjoy early arrivals in Hell, and with the Government's unlimited resources at its disposal, those programs are undoubtedly being refined and improved as I type. I would suggest it is difficult to work on acquiring a nuclear weapon when all one's forces are surrounded and beset by a vastly more powerful enemy.

There are many threats facing us in this world, but to me, actively fearing nuclear terrorism makes little sense. That is not to say the Government should ignore it, of course; but rather that there is no need for the people to worry about it, at least to the point where they are going out and buying plastic sheeting. If you ask me, the greatest threats to our way of life right now are economic-based. God knows these concerns may not be as sexy as nuclear weapons, but I fear that hidden amidst the balance sheets and general ledgers and government statements, there may be problems that are invidious -- and far closer to home.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at September 9, 2008 08:20 PM | TrackBack


"A group of my friends IS in the midst of an animated e-mail discussion," Ben, IS. :-)

Posted by: Matt S. at September 9, 2008 10:18 PM

Funny that you just used half of a GREAT quote to title this entry (I sporadically read your blog when I want to read creative and VERY funny thought). I just was reminded of the entire quote when responding to a higher-up muckymuck, and thus researched its genesis after it reminded me of my Dad, a devout Pogo enthusiast. You might enjoy. And remember, especially in THIS election year, to look at what the fear really is and what your friends appear to be afraid of. I think you get it, given your title for this missive...


The Source: The Best of Pogo, Edited by Mrs. Walt Kelly and Bill Crouch Jr. A Fireside Book, published by Simon & Schuster, Copyright 1982 by Walt Kelly Estate
By Walt Kelly, Page 224:

“In the time of Joseph McCarthyism, celebrated in the Pogo strip by a character named Simple J. Malarkey, I attempted to explain each individual is wholly involved in the democratic process, work at it or no. The results of the process fall on the head of the public and he who is recalcitrant or procrastinates in raising his voice can blame no one but himself. An introduction to Pogo Papers, published by Simon and Schuster in 1952-53, said in part:

The Kelly quote:

‘...Specializations and markings of individuals everywhere abound in such profusion that major idiosyncrasies can be properly ascribed to the mass. Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly. It is just unfortunate that in the clumsy hands of the cartoonist all traits become ridiculous, leading to a certain amount of self conscious expostulation and the desire to join battle.’

‘There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tiny blasts of tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.’


Posted by: Norm at September 10, 2008 02:36 AM

Matt: Thanks for the tip, Mr Helpful. (You are right, sadly, but it is tough to maintain perfect grammatical clarity when writing after a long day at work).

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at September 10, 2008 07:43 PM

Norm: Well, the way I see it, there are plenty of things seemingly less sinister than a suitcase nuke that could cause chaos -- like, say, the collapse of the derivatives market, which is worth $100 trillion in the US alone. Best not to think about such things, though.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at September 10, 2008 07:53 PM
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