September 11, 2006

Uncertainty, certainty, and 9/11

Filed under: Politics — marcstober @ 1:57 pm

I’m annoyed with all the “Monday-morning quarterbacks” who have sprouted up ascribing blame for 9/11 to Clinton, or Bush; or to the people who built the towers or were charged with planning for emergencies in them.

This kind of misses the point, which is that 9/11 was the sort of day you can’t actually plan for; you only can react to how it turns out. In fact, if I’m critical of anything it’s of some specific stories about how emergencies in the towers were too well-planned; responses to kitchen grease or wastebasket fires were so typical they didn’t plan for an actual unexpected emergency. Nevertheless, these were plans made on reasonable guesses of the risks. Someone else might have guessed differently—and in our free-market democracy it’s important for people to try out-guessing each other, so long as your remember you’re all just guessing in the face of uncertainty.

After all, this is how we deal with more mundane matters—do I bring an umbrella today? Which request do I handle first at work? So it’s a bit much to expect someone is going to have all the answers to the big problems of global politics.

Today we’ve changed some plans but I’m still not sure that as a country we’re any better prepared for next thing that’s really unexpected. Even the New York Times has gotten into thinking that there is just some set of simple rules by which we’ll all be safe.

Of course, one can be reasonably certain in hindsight, such as that the real blame lies with the terrorists.