Sunday, April 06, 2008

George Kennan

George Kennan, written in 1954, via Andrew Sullivan:

"There is something about this quest for absolute security that is self-defeating. It is an exercise which, like every form of perfectionism, undermines and destroys its own basic purpose. The French have their wonderful proverb: Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien--the absolute best is the enemy of the good. Nothing truer has ever been said . A foreign policy aimed at the achievement of total security is the one thing I can think of that is entirely capable of bringing this country to a point where it will have no security at all. And a ruthless, reckless insistence on attempting to stamp out everything that could conceivably constitute a reflection of improper foreign influence in our national life, regardless of the actual damage it is doing to the cost of eliminating it, in terms of other American values, is the one thing I can think of that should reduce us all to a point where the very independence we are seeking to defend would be meaningless, for we would be doing things to ourselves as vicious and tyrannical as any that might be brought to us from outside.

This sort of extremism seems to me to hold particular danger for a democracy, because it creates a curious area between what is held to be possible and what is really possible--an area within which government can always be plausibly shown to have been most dangerously delinquent in the performance of its tasks. And this area, where government is always deficient, provides the ideal field of opportunity for every sort of demagoguery and mischief-making. It constitutes a terrible breach in the dike of our national morale, through which forces of doubt and suspicion never cease to find entry. The heart of our problem, here, lies in our assessment of the relative importance of the various dangers among which we move; and until many of our people can be brought to understand the what we have to do is not to secure a total absence of danger but to balance peril against peril and to find the tolerable degree of each, we shall not wholly emerge from these confusions. "

Exactly. In the quest to be perfectly safe, we seem willing to wipe our butt with both the Constitution and common sense. Banning liquids and taking off our shoes is making us safer? Really? How about fining the airlines $50 million dollars every time they fail a maintenance check? I guarantee you that would save more lives than the baloney they are putting us through now.

1 comment:

  1. Isn't it funny all the things that are learned and forgotten? I do it too, forget to look at history and what I have the potential to learn from it. Nice. And sad of course.


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