The Nervous Breakdown from the Botched Airline Bombing

The Nervous Breakdown from the Botched Airline Bombing Michael J. EconomidesLooking at the saturation press coverage it is not hard to conclude that what the terrorists set out to do is working for them: cost us a lot of money and give us the equivalent of a national nervous breakdown. As a nation and as a world we should discipline ourselves, take the tough but rational decisions and resist knee-jerk reactions, not unlike what as individuals we do in our daily lives, admittedly with varying degrees of success. The hapless Umar Faruk Abdulmutallab, the would-be airliner bomber, should be more the subject of bemused pity rather than a national mobilization. He literally and figuratively brutally castrated himself and the movement he represents. The story of his father warning the US Embassy in Nigeria is not unlike the famous statement attributed to Georges Clemenceau, France’s World War I, Prime Minister who, in a bygone era, said “If my son is not a communist by age 20 I will disown him; if he is still a communist by age 40, I will again disown him.” Today, among restless and disenfranchised Moslem youth, one can readily replace “communist” by “islamist” and the end result is one and the same. The movement, without a real aim and without any coherent and effective organization, is nothing more than a social trend which can lead to isolated tragedies but certainly does not warrant a trillion dollar response. We should declare an unmitigated victory that nothing major has happened since September 11, 2001. It should also show the powerlessness of our adversaries. Unfortunately, for many Umar wannabees what we are doing now is by far the biggest encouragement to vent their natural social and physical predilections. Let’s stop now.I hoped that what Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Dec. 27 and, following a wide outcry quickly recanted on Dec. 28, that the “system worked,” meant that our reaction would be measured and not panicked; that we would continue traveling and working normally. Unfortunately our propensity to exaggerate and the press to sensationalize again got the best of us.It may sound crass and heartless for the people involved and their families but had the operation not been botched, in itself a far-fetched chance for the naïve and incompetent Umar, and resulted in a brutal tragedy, the cost to our economy and the impact on our life would be tiny, compared to what any attempted reaction to seal off all chances for repetition will cost in both real money and anxiety.There is another huge by-product of the re-orientation of the press coverage. It has delegated really important issues to the inside pages of newspapers and removed them entirely from TV news. Other than the healthcare issue, in my area of interest, energy, there have been two very important events recently that both warrant major national attention, potentially worth trillions.The first was the recent bid for Iraqi oil fields in which, the Iraqi government, showing a marked independence from the expectations of the conspiracy and the war-for-oil theorists, shut out American oil companies. The Iraqi oilfields, languishing for years, first because of the draconian sanctions during the Saddam Hussein years and the ravages of war since then, are perhaps the most potentially prolific in the world. Over the next decade Iraqi oil production is expected to top 11 million barrels per day, quadrupling the current production of 2.5 million barrels per day and vying to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer. In the process it will make a mockery of constantly re-surfacing Peak Oil talk.The second was the meeting in Copenhagen, which although it came far short from the expectations of its promoters, it has legitimized what many thought was very sketchy science, the man-made link to climate change. The toothpaste is out of the tube and future legislation, any legislation, on cap-and-trade will have huge and lasting economic impact both in size and on the lifestyle as we know it.These are the compounded effects of the Detroit airline incident, an event that rational human beings should have shrugged off and moved on, concerned with far weightier issues.