It is folly for anyone to contend that our safety and security are as strong as they need to be.
We Americans are so locked into quick fixes for problems that we summarize too much and are too willing to accept wishful bottom-line evaluations.
Consider recent efforts to overhaul the nation's intelligence agencies, in a bill that creates a powerful director of national intelligence who would take away from the Pentagon much of the control for watching over 15 spy units.
In the politicking pro and con, one group would contend that if the bill was not passed, the nation would suddenly become open to glaring terrorist attacks. As if it has not been, and continues to be. Some went so far as to declare that if the measure died, we could expect another 9-11 assault fairly soon.
Then came the opponents to contend that the bill did not go far enough and needed to be even stronger, or "we're in for even more trouble."
Meanwhile, President Bush and a wide range of supporters, including friends and loved ones of 9-11 victims, were pushing hard for approval. The goal, they said, was to revamp a weak intelligence complex that could not detect new threats. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts played a central role in pushing through the legislation, but he is quick to note this is just the first step in putting together an effective security system. Bush, Roberts and others realize we are not suddenly invulnerable now that one bill is approved.
Naturally, no single measure can totally protect or fully doom America, considering how varied the threats are against our safety and security, abroad and even at home. How could a single bill solve all those problems, or create new ones if it is not sanctioned?
The road to the kind of security we all want is going to be a long and hard one to travel and will require negotiating many steps. We have to expect difficult times, and we certainly cannot be lulled into a false sense of security by comments such as those of John Ashcroft in his Nov. 2 letter of resignation as U.S. attorney general.
Wrote Ashcroft: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."
Surely Ashcroft doesn't think he and his agency got all that done in their time on the job. Yet anyone who accepts that at face value is begging for derision. How can anyone with Ashcroft's long record in public service be that out of touch?
The legislation that will allow America to get better service, cooperation and efficiency from its intelligence community is a step in the right direction. But for anyone to contend that it is a be-all and end-all, for good or bad, is trying to speak with his head in the sand.
The war on terrorism will be with us 365 days a year for many years to come.