Is the government making us less secure?

Today’s Washington Post ran a front page story on Rand Beers, a former “top White House counterterrorism adviser” who resigned from the government, denounced the government’s efforts against terrorism, and joined the Kerry campaign as a national security adviser. It’s difficult to tell from the article what Beers’ beef is, and therefore whether there is any merit to his claim that the administration “is making us less secure, not more secure.” Beers’ lack of specificity may be due, in part, to the classified nature of what he knows. However, there are enough red flags in the Post’s account to suggest that Beers shouldn’t be taken very seriously.
Let’s start with his core claim — that the government is making us less secure. This seems ludicrous on its face. It’s certainly possible, even likely, that the adminstration isn’t doing all it could to combat terrrorism. It may even be the case that the administration isn’t doing a very good job overall. But it’s difficult to see how our anti-terrorism efforts could actually be making us less secure than we would otherwise be. That Beers would make such a statement suggests to me that one or more of the following is true: (1) Beers isn’t very stable, (2) Beers is driven by an ideological bias, (3) Beers has a major axe to grind.
The article provides evidence for all three of these propositions. The Post reports that Beers “tears up” when he watches the silly leftist television show “West Wing.” That alone makes me wonder. More significantly, the article intimates that Beers became stressed out by the “monstrous” nature of his job. 500 to 1,000 pieces of threat information crossed his desk every day. His job required him to “sit around every day thinking about how people want to kill thousands of Americans.” One can understand why Beers might conclude that not enough was being done and why, more generally, the job might cause him to lose balance and perspective.
There also seems to be a major ideological component to Beers’ stance. The primary grievances cited in the article are that we should have had a broader coalition when we fought Iraq, that we are not dealing with the “root causes” of terrorism, and that we are underfunding the Homeland Security Department. These criticisms seem to come straight from the Democratic playbook (Beers is a lifelong Democrat). They don’t reflect a reasoned critique of the nuts and bolts of our homeland security effort (although again there are limits on what Beers can say in that regard).
Finally, Beers seems driven in part by dislike of the people in charge. A recurrent theme is his distress that his superiors weren’t team players. Beers is clearly upset that, from his perspective, he wasn’t listened to. It is certainly possible that the people running the counterterrorism efforts are arrogant, perhaps even to the detriment of the quality of those efforts. But it is also possible that Beers is the latest in a long line of Washington bureaucrats to confuse the disregard of some of his advice with malice and incompetence.
In the end, one simply can’t tell very much about the quality of our counterterrorism efforts from the Post’s article. They may be seriously deficient, as Beers believes, but nothing in the article causes me to think that this is the case.


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