Jesse Walker, via Sullivan. Bolding mine.
Why did the DHS report come under such fire? It wasn’t because far-right cranks are incapable of committing crimes. It’s because the paper blew the threat of right-wing terror out of proportion, just as the Clinton administration did in the ’90s; because it treated “extremism” itself as a potential threat, while offering a definition of extremist so broad it seemed it include anyone who opposed abortion or immigration or excessive federal power; and because it fretted about the danger of “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities.”
You know what else blew up in the ’90s? The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Idiot.
This post inexplicably disappeared from the site a few minutes after I wrote it, so I re-wrote it and posted it again. Apologies to any commenters whose stuff might have disappeared. We may have two threads if the original one wanders back from the bar at some point.
Jesse responds here that he specifically meant to condemn the civil liberties aspects of laws passed in response to the attacks by al Qaeda and Tim McVeigh. This is a criticism that both liberals and honest libertarians have made at least through the Bush administration. Therefore, at least with respect to that concern, I do not disagree in the slightest.
However, the questionable wisdom with which Congress reacted to either attack does not excuse his profoundly unimpressive claim that either threat was blown out of proportion. A country cannot ignore terrorist groups that are willing and able to level buildings full of innocent people. The libertarian ideal of laissez faire simply fails in this case. By the following election, if not sooner, any government that fails to respond to an assault like that will be replaced by representatives who will.
Nobody thinks that we should ever stop debating the wisest way to mediate violent threats. More accurately, I should say nobody thinks that but Republicans and the criminally stupid. But I repeat myself. Hell, I wrote about the civil liberties consequences of terrorist hysteria while wannabe Jack Bauers like Glenn Reynolds still credibly called themselves libertarian.
We can talk about whether we have accurately gauged the risk from various potential threats. When we’re done with that conversation, we can talk about the right and wrong way to handle threats. Mushing them together runs the risk that we accidentally wander into the unacceptable consequences fallacy. The badness of a proposed remedy does not ipso facto prove that a threat was inaccurately gauged.