Of late, I have been noticing a common thread in certain circles regarding certain potential threats. In regards to Florida, North Korea, the Palestinian Authority, and Iraq, a remarkably similar defense is being proffered.
In Florida, seven men are under arrest for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks. Some say that it is all a ploy by the government, that they were "just talking," that they were too inept to do more than plan, that they had no actual weapons or explosives, just talking big.
In North Korea, Kim Jong-Il is likely to be testing his first intercontinental ballistic missile. While many consider this a grave cause for alarm, others see it as no big deal. It isn't likely to work. And if it does, he probably doesn't have a functional nuclear warhead to put on it. And if he does, it's too primitive (read: too big and too heavy) to fit on the missile. And even if it does fit the missile, he's not crazy enough to fire a single nuke at the US.
In the Middle East, a group that is part of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization claims to possess biological and chemical weapons. They already have a semi-reliable delivery system in their Qassam rockets, so here the question is whether or not their claim about the weapons is valid.
Meanwhile, their rivals in Hamas (who control the rest of hte Palestinian Authority government) just attacked an Israeli military post inside Israel through a tunnel, killing two soldiers and taking a third (presumably still alive). They are demanding the release of over 400 prisoners in exchange for information regarding him (establishing the Palestinians' own valuation of their own people vs. Israelis -- apparently one Zionist occupier is worth over 400 Palestinians).
And in Iraq, the discovery of over 500 chemical weapons is being minimized and scoffed at by the war's opponents. They were old weapons, not proof of Saddam's renewed WMD programs. They were from before the first Gulf War, and have degraded (but are still dangerous). They weren't stashed anywhere, they were lost and forgotten about.
In each case, the side attempting to minimize the danger here is violating a principle I heard years ago, and have traced back to Major John Christenson, USMC: "Honor the threat."
If someone who you know wishes you harm threatens you, you damned well better presume they have the means to carry out that threat until proven otherwise. Respect your enemy. Assume that they are intelligent and competent, and would not make a threat that they are not prepared to carry out.
This is not a call for paranoia. Threats are not deeds, and should not be grounds for retaliation. But it is a fool who hears the threats and ignores them.
Some religious nuts in Florida are talking about blowing up buildings in Allah's name? Well, threats like that alone are crimes. It might be easier to win a conviction, and longer sentences, if you wait until they actually take a few concrete steps towards doing so, but by that time it could be too late.
Some nutcase is threatening to nuke the US, and is pretty certain to have a couple of nukes on hand, and wants to test a missile to deliver it? Sounds like a good time to test a few things of our own -- such as our missile defense program and our counterstrike capability. If he doesn't follow international protocols and fires off his "test" missile without telling the world "this is a test, this is only a test," treat it as a live missile. Try to shoot it down, and simultaneously level the launch base. And a few other related bases. And a few more military targets, just for good measure.
Terrorists claim to have biological and chemical weapons to put on the rockets they're already using to bombard you? Announce that the next rocket fired will be presumed to be tipped with just such weapons, and massive retaliation will commence even before it hits the ground. The launch area of the missile will be levelled. Suspected assembly points of such missiles will be levelled. And any member of the terrorist organizations will be considered fair game, along with anyone stupid or unfortunate enough to be in the immediate proximity of the terrorists.
A nation with a past history of possessing and using WMDs, a history of aggressive war against its neighbors, and a nation defeated and forced to comply with disarming treaties to end a prior war, refused to cooperate with agreed-upon inspections and hints to its neighbors that if they strike in his moment of weakness, he will retaliate with WMDs? Who fires on those enforcing the terms of his surrender? Who supports terrorists openly? Who is organizing massive bribe attempts to get those crushing sanctions lifted? He's broken enough of his agreements; take down his government once and for all.
In each case, the actual danger posed is not likely, not imminent, not a huge cause for concern. But in each case, it is sufficient, and the motivation of the threatening party so high, that to not treat it as likely is too great.
After all, five years ago, who would have thought that less than two dozen guys armed with stuff you can buy at a dollar store for less than 20 bucks could end up killing almost 3,000 people in one morning?
"Honor the threat." Those who don't very often end up dead, with a very stupid-looking surprised look on their face.