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The Not-So-Secured States of America

12 January 2010

On January 3rd, Haisong Jiang of Piscataway, N.J., was seen slipping into the local airport via an exit which, at the precise moment he entered, was not appropriately guarded by an TSA agent.  He, apparently, wanted to share a romantic good-bye moment with his girlfriend before her flight took her away.  His minor infraction received a reaction from airport security which could only be described as unprecedented.  One which caused thousands of people a major inconvenience and virtually shut down the airline industry worldwide.  Haisong Jiang was arrested last Saturday.  Apparently, Haisong had no idea that he had instigated a manhunt and delayed thousands of passengers.

Haisong Jiang

My purpose here isn’t to bestow upon Haisong Jiang a slew of statements meant to proclaim his innocence.  Nor is my purpose to provide open ended admiration for the TSA and it’s commendable, if some what over zealous, reaction to a could-be terrorist plot.  In a topic as argumentatively volatile as the war on terror, I’d be smart to walk a fine line between the two common extremes.

What I want to warn against, as distant a reality as it may seem to many, is becoming a police state.  Americans now live in a country in which using the wrong door can result in prosecution in the court of public opinion, not to mention criminal charges.  We’ve become a nation that has a knee-jerk reaction to the mundane while lacking an appropriate one for events which actually threaten lives.  We should be mindful that overreaction can be every bit as harmful as having no reaction.

Al-Qaeda  terrorist cells have one objective; Destroy the American way of life.  When we literally change the way we live to accommodate their threats, we hand them what they desire most.  I’d submit that as security becomes more rigid, so too will the zeal with which terrorists abroad attempt to destroy us.  Perhaps more frightening, as Al-Qaeda becomes more resolved to destroy us, security within the homeland will become more rigid.

Remember the days before being required to remove your shoes at the airport?  Before being made to dispose of perfumes, colognes, hand-sanitizers, or any other liquid?  Soon we’ll think back to a time before we had to submit to a full-body MRI or X-Ray to enter an airport.  At some point Americans will say “enough is enough” and rely more on other modes of transportation which could worsen the already troubled American job market.

A woman undergoes a full-body scan.

Airlines have been struggling with creating profit margins for decades, practically since the airline industry was created.  Add to that the recent media obsession with making flying appear to be the most dangerous thing a human being can do and it begins to create a recipe for disaster.  Airports become fanatically focused on reacting quickly rather than intelligently and passengers becomes disenfranchised with the airline industry.

A question I would pose is this:  What happens when domestic terror attacks become more like attacks nearer the neighborhoods of the terrorist cells?  More to the point; Car bombsbus bombsbombs in public places, etc.  How will our society react to these problems?  Will cities nationwide require public transit passengers to submit to cavity searches?  Will customers be frisked when entering their local grocery store?  More importantly, will our legacy as a nation be one of abandoning our principles or will we allow our principles to become our saving grace?

An RPG

Let’s face it, no matter what security procedure is enacted a determined mind will not be deterred.  There are currently thousands of US weapons missing in Afghanistan.  A member of Al-Qaeda need only bring a Rocket Propelled Grenade within firing range of a target, like an airplane.  It would immediately make every security protocol ever written utterly meaningless.  I think we would all do well to remember that there is no security protocol that will remove all danger from living.  Life is dangerous.

We could continue to address the consequences of radicals with security agencies and new uncomfortable and impractical policies or we could decide to address the radicals who create the terrorists whom desire our destruction.  When we decide to do the latter, I think we’ll find our efforts to be more fruitful.  After all, attempting to capture and punish terrorists is a bit like attempting to empty a bathtub with a Dixie Cup while the spigot is still turned to the on position.

Security before prosperity?

To be clear, I’m not suggesting the brutal murder of figure heads in Al-Qaeda and similar organizations (like has become common place in our two concurrent wars).  Those killed will simply be lifted to martyrdom and inspire the recruiting of hundreds of other young people.

My suggestion?  Education.  Education has proven an effective form of social change throughout history time and time again.  Educating the youth of Islamic nations will serve as a firewall and stop the recruiting of the nations young people.  Education can lead to a negative view of martyrdom which is the only way to stop the youth of Islam from seeking it out.  Spreading knowledge of the world to these radical areas of Islam can serve as a deterrent for violence against the rest of the world.

Al-Qaeda children

Perhaps a good place to start is to encourage the Islamic community to protest the abhorrent acts of Islamic radicals.  I find it odd that when the prophet Mohamed is to be depicted in a cartoon thousands riot and protest resulting in the deaths of men, women, and children.  However, when a young man of Islam bombs a volleyball game killing 88 people, not one person stands up in protest.  Only after Islam changes it’s attitude regarding the actions of terrorists will terrorists come in fewer numbers.  It is through education and cooperation that we will achieve a lasting peace.

Unfortunately, it is far more likely that Americans will continue to agree with their televisions.  The talking heads supporting both sides of our political spectrum will continue to call for the escalation of war and violence.  In turn, our enemies will continue to increase the size and complexity of their attacks.  Next, our police and security agencies will continue to apply more techniques that fly in the face of liberty.  In the end, our enemies will celebrate for having robbed of us of our freedoms.

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2 Comments
  1. A.J. Lipp permalink
    12 January 2010 151

    Joe, I mean, I’m as much of a tree-hugging liberal as anyone, but even I can’t agree with you when you say, “I’m not suggesting the brutal murder of figure heads in Al-Qaeda and similar organizations (like has become common place in our two concurrent wars). Those killed will simply be lifted to martyrdom and inspire the recruiting of hundreds of other young people.” We do need to imprison or kill the people running Al Qaeda. I don’t need it to be “brutal murder”, and if I had my choice, I’d choose that they all be captured alive and locked up for the rest of their lives. But 99% of Al Qaeda are not the organization’s figure heads & leaders. They’re uneducated teenagers and guys in their 20’s. THEY are the ones who need to be educated. But the 1% at the top need to be locked up (or killed) ASAP.

    • 12 January 2010 156

      I didn’t say they shouldn’t be imprisoned – but I think we can agree that murder begets murder.

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