Looking at this 9/11 report, indicate what you think may have been viewed as ‘failures of imagination’ and why.
After emphasizing the role of imagination in various phases of the 9/11 disaster--for example, watching radar allows for objects to drop "below the radar screen and it’s just continually hovering in your imagination"--the report asserts, as Rumsfeld put it, a “'failure of imagination' and a mind-set that dismissed possibilities." Possibilities in context of 9/11 would be the possibility of suicide bomber--a possibility that was dismissed, like other possibilities because of "failures of imaginations" in an attack that "was an event of surpassing disproportion."
Another point which has been intimated, but not actually stated so far in the above post, is that something like this could happen in our home turf. By and large, conflict has taken place outside of US soil. To think that a new type of warfare could take place in America was not within the imagination of many. In addition, to think that this could happen in New York City, the capital of the world in many ways was amazing.
One can imagine a terrorist attack, sure, as they happen commonly throughout the world, and had happened to the US, even at the World Trade Center before. The failure of imagination manifested itself in two main ways: 1) overconfidence in the intelligence and security community about the ability of al-Qaeda or anyone else, to hijack flights, or that hijacked planes would be used as bombs at all if it were to happen, and 2) an inability to imagine the widespread damage and death toll a sophisticated attack could cause.
I wonder if there was not a sense of arrogance on the part of the people concerned in this article. America seemed to be so sure of itself and so confident in firstly their superior might and secondly the distance separating them from Afghanistan. This is the crucial "failure of imagination" that occurred.
In retrospect, it seems startling that people never imagined that a plane could be hijacked and crashed into significant target. Plane hijackings, after all, have been occurring for years. People seem to have assumed that hijackers would never crash a plane into a target because the hijackers would not want to lose their own lives. However, for years before 9/11, people in the mideast had shown a willingness to blow themselves up, as "suicide bombers," in order to achieve their goals. Putting 2 and 2 together here should not have been difficult, but, of course, hindsight is always 20/20.
I have to agree with pohnpei. I think that the greatest failure of the imagination is that people simply could not fathom that the threat was, or could ever be, real. In situations like this, people tend to dissuade themselves from believing that something that horrendous could happen. They do believe, though, that they were too strong to be harmed.
In a section entitled "Imagination" (page 9-10), the report specifically claims that "Al-Qaeda's new brand of terrorism presented challenges to U.S. governmental institutions that they were not well-prepared to meet." There was an awareness among the top levels of the CIA, FBI, and NSA that something big was in the works, but they failed to put findings together in a way that would have suggested what the terror cells were up to. They failed to imagine the conclusions that might be drawn from the information they had, which, the report points out, was considerable.
The major failure of imagination was the failure to realize that something that sounded so fictional could actually happen. There was some inability to imagine that a bunch of people in Afghanistan could truly be a threat to the US. Even if they were a threat, there was a failure of imagination as to what could be done to get them.