January 25, 2006
Why a Bit of Fear Is In Order
Two years ago I was
on a business trip when my wife called and frantically explained
that an intruder had broken into our house while she and our two
small children were sleeping. She had heard the creak of the hardwood
floor outside our bedroom and looked up, expecting to see one
of the kids trying to crawl into bed as they sometimes do when
they’ve had a bad dream. Instead, she saw the dark shadow
of a man standing in the doorframe less than five feet away. She
screamed and, thankfully, the intruder raced out the same way
he had come in – through the backdoor. Our lives have returned
to normal since then but they are not, nor will they ever be the
We don’t really
talk about the incident any more, but every now and then it will
cross my mind. My heart will start to race and I’ll get
a deep pit in my stomach over the thought of an intruder being
in my home and the unspeakable possibilities we were lucky enough
to avoid. As hard as it is to contemplate, things could have turned
out much, much worse.
Nevertheless, I live
with that memory tucked away in my head every day. A small part
of me fears it ever happening again. And even with all the security
improvements we have made to help make sure that it doesn’t,
that fear is what makes me touch every door and every window in
the house before I go to bed at night.
The moral of the story,
for those who are wondering, is that maintaining a bit of fear
in the face of a real threat is a good thing. In the case of national
security, it is an imperative. The sooner we forget what happened
on September 11 or come to believe the threat no longer exists,
the sooner we become less vigilant, more complacent, and more
vulnerable to attack.
This is one of my
main beefs with Democrats who continually accuse President Bush
of being a “fear monger” for using the threat of terrorism
to scare and “divide” people. The fact is that Americans
need to be reminded from time to time about the ongoing threat
of terrorism, and there is simply no way of doing that without
putting people on edge. Terrorism is real, it is scary, and it
is now an unfortunate fact of life. Pretending otherwise would
be a dereliction of duty for this or any other administration.
The hypocrisy of Democrats
on the issue is even more infuriating. They are the ones who have
perfected the art of scaring the voting public over the last twenty
years with apocalyptic visions that range from farfetched to non-existent.
It seems like every two years we’re treated to the same
refrain about Granny eating dog food because she can’t afford
The fact is that all
threats are not equal and should not be equally feared. So which
is more of a threat worth fearing, exactly: that al-Qaeda will
try and explode a bomb in a major U.S. city or that Sam Alito
is going to make black people sit at segregated lunch tables?
That Bush is going to cause the end of human existence by not
signing Kyoto or that terrorists get their hands on a two vials
of anthrax or ten pounds of enriched uranium?
A fundamental yet
consistently unappreciated fact is that the first thing President
Bush does when he gets to work every day is sit down and listen
to a litany of threats and plots against the American people.
We probably can’t even imagine the magnitude of the hair-raising
things he hears, nor can we appreciate how real those threats
must appear to a Commander in Chief in charge of national security
in a post-9/11 world.
So a bit of fear is
in order under the circumstances. Some will suggest this means
the terrorists have already won. Hardly. Vigilance driven by focused
concern is not weakness, utter complacency is.
Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics.
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