Monday, December 28, 2009

How and where do we pay for security?

So far, all acts of terrorism against Americans that have taken place on American soil could have been prevented by more careful and intelligent screening. Had the 9/11 terrorists been stopped, on the basis of information about some of them that was known at the time, things would look a lot different today.

On the other hand, screening itself has come under pressure. There have been complaints that garment-penetrating video devices and routine "pat-downs" violate passenger privacy and cause long lines and inconveniences. So what is the trade-off here?

Of course, no one forces anyone to fly, and certainly there are domestic alternatives.

More importantly, however, it is simply wrong to concentrate our efforts and resources on an external "war on terror" which takes place in other peoples' homelands. Tragic as the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were, resulting in the deaths of at least 3000 people, our campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have killed tens if not hundreds of times as many innocents through "collateral damage." Yet, as we are now seeing, in spite of all the slaughter, we have yet to take serious steps domestically to neutralize terrorists at or on our shores. The true costs of air travel in terms of both pollution and security are not being confronted. We seem to worry more about inconveniences and minor impositions on the privacy of Americans than we do about the life and limbs of others that we so easily have sacrificed to try to buy security overseas.

It's time to do the right thing: bring home the troops and bombs and drones, and take care of homeland security by concentrating on our airlines, shipping and cities.

(I know there is still a massive security problem in Pakistan which might get worse if the Taliban becomes very strong in Afghanistan. I believe that this can be handled via close work with both Pakistan and the U.N. There is much that has been written about this issue, as well as the role of India. I hope to discuss these issues in a future blog.)

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