America's overreaction syndrome

Those in positions of public responsibility on 9/11 looked really bad. They didn’t see the hit coming. So in response, they wanted to look tough. Serious. Decisive. The result was a foreign policy of muscle flexing and throwing little countries against the wall to show we mean business. And airport safety designed to be a form of security theater. Henceforth we would be made to stand in interminable lines and submit to annoying and pointless rules prior to being allowed to fly because this would make it look like we were taking the threat of terrorism much more seriously than we were prior to 9/11.

When we look like we’re being tough, serious, and decisive, we feel safe — and those in charge of keeping us safe thereby insulate themselves from criticism that they weren’t taking the threat seriously before the original bad event took place. “Just look at how thoroughly we’re doing our jobs now!”

With memories of the events of Jan. 6 still fresh in our minds, we seem poised to do the same thing again: respond to a traumatic event by making a largely symbolic statement intended to show just how seriously we — and especially the people who dropped the ball so badly on the day of the melee — are taking the threat of future insurrectionary violence.