Monday, August 08, 2005

Define The Threat

Charles Krauthammer wrote a great piece about a week ago on how the Brits are dealing with the very serious terrorist threat and how we politically correct Americans are bumbling along. Anyone who has take a trip by air in the last several years knows what he’s talking about. Logical Profiling

The issue is that racial-prejudice loaded term, “profiling”. It has become a banner for civil libertarians to wave whenever a police crackdown appears to focus on the most probable predators in a particular area. We blanch (pun maybe intended) at the injustice of being stopped for “driving while black”—a euphemism for focused enforcement against those who simply happen to fit a racial demographic profile. It is a throwback to the red-neck sheriff days in the south. It is wrong to simply decide that because an African-American is driving a particular style of vehicle in a predominantly white neighborhood he should be stopped, searched and inconvenienced. No argument at all there.

But, if a victim of a street crime says, the perpetrator was a dark-skinned individual, about 25 years old wearing black baggy pants, a red Chicago Bulls jersey and a red ball cap cocked off to one side, should the police be restricted from focusing their search on folks who look like that? Should they stop a representative sampling of older women, just to be fair? Only the courts can decide.

The terrorist question, however, transcends the racial prejudice issue. It becomes a question of the greater good of protecting society at large over the individual right to “equal protection under the law”. We make those compromises all of the time in living in any society. It is the essence of the “Social Contract”—we draw lines along a spectrum between the needs of the individual and the need for security in society. Where the line falls between total freedom for the individual and total security for the society is the tough decision.

Krauthammer highlights the demographic profile of suicide bombing terrorists. They don’t generally look like your 75-year-old grandmother. They aren’t petite blond secretaries. They seldom, if ever, are brief-case carrying, suit-and-tie-wearing executives. They aren’t American teenagers with I-Pods plugged in their ears. They aren’t family groups of mom, pop and baby Jane. We know what they will look like based on the history of the last forty years of terrorist attacks. This ain’t rocket science.

Frankly, I’m sick of waking for a trip, taking a shower, packing carefully and dressing neatly only to find my bags rumpled, my briefcase disturbed, my computer subjected to man-handling and my clothing disheveled by the time I get to the boarding gate. I’m about as likely to be a terrorist bomber as was Joe Foss, retired Marine General, multiple fighter pilot ace, former Governor of S. Dakota, and Medal of Honor Recipient. The Neanderthals of security thought that the 86 year old gentleman’s Medal was some sort of weapon—like a ninja star, I guess. Joe Foss, Hero Gets Hassled

For Americans to not recognize the MOH is inexcusable. For our fixation with avoidance of profiling to continue to endanger us is even more reprehensible. Isn’t it time to wise up?

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