The Lesson of Paris (November 20, 2015)

Peggy Noonan, three years before 9-11, practically predicted the very tragedy that was to unfold.   In a Forbes magazine article titled “There is No Time, There Will Be Time” published in the fall of 1998, she lamented the fact that a terrorist attack was going to occur in New York or Washington DC, our elected officials knew it was bound to happen, but none of them had the courage to do anything about it.

And so, on the 11th of September 2001, Al Qaeda attacked.  And on September 12thour government finally acted.

In June of 2014, the recently retired Deputy Director of the CIA told a spellbound audience that the single biggest threat to the security of the west was the ISIS insurgency that was spreading across two continents, encompassing parts of Nigeria, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.  And he said the world’s response thus far was far from adequate.

And so it took a terrorist attack in Paris to get the French President to declare war on ISIS a year and a half later.

But there are other risks ….. risks far more cataclysmic than those presented by a handful of suicide bombers.

In June of 2006, at a time when North Korea was preparing to test a long range ballistic missile, Ashton Carter, our current Secretary of Defense, along with former Secretary of Defense William Perry, jointly authored an op-ed that recommended the Bush administration, if necessary, “strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched.”  They wrote that while there were risks in taking out the missile, the risk of not doing so would be far greater as it would lead to “more and more warheads atop more and more missiles.”

To recap:  Our elected officials knew we faced terrorist threats and did little…until after we were attacked, when, along with other things, they set up the office of homeland security.  France knew that they faced terrorist attacks from ISIS and did very little…until after they were attacked, when they declared war.

And nine years ago our Secretary of Defense warned that a nuclear-armed North Korea would present a grave threat to the people of the United States.

The difference with this threat, of course, is if our leaders get it wrong again, and continue to wait until after the fact to react to the foreseeable North Korean threat, we lose a lot more than two buildings and thousands of lives.

The lesson of Paris is not just to destroy ISIS.

The main lesson of Paris is for our leaders, this time, to actually lead.  And keep us safe.  I hope you agree.

Bill