ONE LINE in The Post's wrap-up of the Beirut bombing on Sunday seemed to provide the deepest of the "lessons" that the State Department is seeking from this latest episode of terrorism in Lebanon. "Officers at EUCOM said it would take months to install gates, sandbags and rifle positions needed at the new site," the story said, "and that a move (of the embassy facility from West Beirut to East Beirut) should not be made until then."
A startling little statement: it is interesting, for instance, and bizarre, that officers in the U.S. military's European Command should (still) be in the chain of command for activities in Lebanon. What rivets our attention, however, is the assumption that it would take months to install the gates and other security appurtenances at the new embassy location. It doesn't seem that the officers contemplating the project had it in mind that the stuff was so special or exotic -- gates? sandbags? -- that logically it would take months to design, tool and construct -- fill -- them and put them in place. They simply seem to have accepted as a law of nature, or of bureaucracy, in either event immutable, that nothing could be done, not even the filling of a sandbag, in less than months. How outrageous, how silly, for anyone to think otherwise.
We harbor a small fantasy. Suppose someone -- the commander in chief comes first to mind -- said that in a reasonable period of time, like tomorrow at the close of business, a gate will be up, sandbags filled and rifle positions readied at all American embassies in danger zones. Is there an officer in EUCOM, or an American ambassador anywhere, who could not find it possible to obey a plain, direct order to discharge such an assignment? It is not as though they were being ordered to launch the Normandy invasion or to high jump 10 feet. The tasks at issue are bite-sized.
An assumption of routine, order, procedure, complexity seizes and paralyzes all of us at times. The antidote is to say, clearly, No -- do it now.