One of the things that frustrates me about political discussions these days (and really all kinds of public discourse these days) is that so many people fail to really think about what they are saying or writing. They have these preconcieved notions that they get from their religious tradition or their political philosophy and they never get around to questioning their assumptions. Worse yet, they even fail to follow their arguments to their logical conclusions and miss what should be, I think, obvious problems with their assumptions. This is one reason why we keep running into so many of those “unintended consequences” we hear so much about.
Take, for instance, airport security. I have for quite a few years heard this complaint: Why are they making little old ladies and small children go through enhanced security screening. We know they aren’t any danger. Young Muslim men are the danger here. Why aren’t we limiting our searches to young Muslim men? It’s political correctness run amok, I tell you!
And now that we have new security standards for flying, it’s time once again for this argument to rear it’s ugly head again. I saw it from Charles Krauthammer in today’s paper (http://wapo.st/aLUbVg) where he jumps on the “Don’t touch my junk” bandwagon. I, like most heterosexual guys I know, am not especially excited about another guy groping me, and like some husbands I’ve heard of, not especially excited about the prospect of my wife being groped. But because Mr. Krauthammer incorrectly understands the reasoning behind not profiling, he takes us in exactly the wrong direction. Here’s Mr. Krauthammer’s thinking:
We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety – 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. [So far, he and I agree] The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling [This is where he loses me] – when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.
The junk man’s revolt marks the point at which a docile public declares that it will tolerate only so much idiocy. Metal detector? Back-of-the-hand pat? Okay. We will swallow hard and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population.
Now let’s think about how we got to where we are today. People would hijack airplanes by taking guns on board, so we banned guns and instituted metal detectors. Then 19 guys hijacked four planes and ran them into buildings by taking boxcutters on board, so we banned boxcutters and stepped up screenings so that belts now set off alarms. Then a bad guy tried to sneak explosives on board in his shoes. Okay, put your sneakers on the conveyor. We hear about bad guys trying to get explosives on board by disguising them as shampoo or other liquids, so now we have to have zip top baggies and tiny bottles of toiletries. Finally (would that it were true) we have a guy who sneaks his explosives in his underwear, and now we get naked x-rays of our pudgy selves or our junk touched. Does Krauthammer not see the pattern here?
If we took his his advice and set up security based on the profile of people we think are likely to get us, is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that our enemies would quit using young Muslim men to attack us? If you were a terrorist and you knew that elderly white women always got a pass at security, wouldn’t you try really hard to find a way to recruit some elderly white women? We know how these folks operate. They look for the holes in our security and exploit them. Running security on everyone, or randomly distributing it is not “political correctness” it’s intelligent planning and better security. This is the one area where we’re a step ahead of the bad guys. By making sure everyone is equally subject to such screening, we protect little old white ladies and three-year-olds from being exploited by the bad guys.
Want proof? We have no-fly lists and made people from certain countries subject to tighter scrutiny. So now the bad guys are looking to recruit people with US Passports (and succeeding). I don’t understand why this concept eludes people.
The real problem is that we will never be able to keep air travel “safe” through airport security. Never. Well, okay, I take that back. If we make airport security onerous enough, the only ones who will want to fly will be terrorists and we can just arrest anyone crazy enough to show up at the airport. Mission Accomplished. I shudder to think what airport security will be like after the first person gets caught with explosives up his …. in an uncomfortable cavity.
Stepping up airport security is only going to get us into an “arms race” where each enhancement to security just sends the bad guys back to brainstorming sessions to find new holes in that security and new ways to exploit them. We’re already getting steadily closer to the point where joining the Army is less invasive than getting on a plane.
No, the only way we can really make air travel safe has nothing to do with airport security. It’s a matter of finding a way to keep them from wanting to attack us in the first place. No, it’s not going to be easy. But if it’ll keep me from having to drop my drawers and grab my ankles just to get on the plane, I’m all for it.
Greetings to one and all! I’ve been talking about doing this for quite awhile, but now I’ve finally gone and done it. I’m blogging!
My mission is to be a voice of reason, a proponent of sanity, and a purveyor of thoughtful responses to current events. Like the Tea Party movement, I want to take my country back. Unlike the Tea Party Movement, I believe that it was taken away from me long ago. Or rather, I and other moderates let people like the Tea Party have my country out of neglect. I feel pretty strongly that one of the main problems with this country is that the moderate factions of both main parties have been too silent and that many of our problems with feeling like our country has been taken away stem from being insufficiently vocal against the crazies out there.
I have strong sympathy for Jon Stewart’s call to Restore Sanity and so I will always try to be calm and reasonable and refrain from ranting unnecessarily. Except about warrantless wiretapping; I don’t think I can keep a promise not to rant on that subject. Just wanted to set your expectations.
Keep an eye out for future posts. My plan is to comment on letters to the editor and Op/Ed pieces published in the Austin American-Statesman. I think that kind of structure will keep me coming back fairly regularly and if I feel moved to do more, that’s fine too.
Thanks for your time.