06 August 2011

Why Study History (Exerpt 2)

The following is a footnote that occupies roughly one entire page in 2500 word "Why Study History," now the second longest post:

Ben Franklin talks about people being willing to sacrifice liberty or freedom for security, but I don't think this is the case. Certainly since 9/11 the American people have given up a lot of freedom – the Patriot Act, TSA gate rape, warrantless wire taps, extraordinary rendition – but the country is no safer than it was on 9/10. for all the freedom the American people have surrendered, they have gained no real security, only the illusion of security.

Counter-terrorism advances only in light of failed attacks. Someone tries to blow up their shoe, you now have to take your shoes off; someone tries to blow up a condom, you now have to get gate raped. The counter-terrorists are only responding to things terrorists have done in the past. There is talk now of suicide bombers with surgically implanted explosives that cannot be detected by the fancy X-ray machines that former DHS Secretary, Michael Chertoff, made a lot of money off of, or the enhanced pat downs, and let us not forget that infants and a terminally ill elderly woman have to be strip searched because they really are plausible terrorists.

Nor is this anything new. Morgan Stanley security chief Rick Rescorla warned the Port Authority of the possibility of a truck bomb attack against the World Trade Center before the 1993 bombing. Only afterward were security measures put in place to prevent additional ground-level attacks, and Rick warned that the next attack would come from someone flying a plane into the towers. He spent the better part of the next decade preparing for that attack and saved thousands of lives, at the cost of his own.

Merely reacting to terror acts is not enough. Independent thinkers must be allowed to think ahead to future and novel attacks. This being said, I am not here to prescribe solutions to terrorism. These examples only serve to demonstrate the point I was making regarding security. People do not surrender their freedom for actual security, but for the illusion of security, and that illusory security is borne out of the need for convenience. Much as people may be inconvenienced by gate rape it would be even more inconvenient to challenge authority and demand a total overhaul of government. Giving up thought and responsibility to government is a whole lot more convenient than the alternative, and thus we sacrifice our freedom and are no better off than we were a decade ago.