It seems the Christmas “underwear bomber” has shined a spotlight back on the War on Terror, and I have been disappointed to say the least about the rhetoric I’ve been hearing from both parties on this subject. The differences in their strategies for the war seem to have been withering for a while, and now we’re at a point where it’s difficult to discern any real differences in their approach.
Back on October 27, 2007, Obama said the following: “I will promise you this: That if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.” Time has shown that he has not lived up to this promise and if anything, is actually expanding the War on Terror.
One thing that has bothered me greatly about the war is people’s desire to give up their rights for “safety.” As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” With the underwear bomber incident, I have heard many say that we need full-body imaging at airports to ensure the safety of air travel. I shudder at the thought of being virtually undressed every time I want to fly somewhere; that’s quite a severe invasion of privacy. I’d argue that even if you prioritize safety over freedom, that it’s still not the best way to go about things.
Isaac Yeffet, former head of El Al Airlines (known as the world’s most secure airline), recently did an interview on Fox News in which he was asked if he supports body scans. His answer: “No, totally no.” El Al’s security has prevented any terrorist incidents for the past 30 years, and they provide an excellent level of security with minimal impacts to the passengers. They achieve this through many different measures, many of them requiring high levels of training for their staff rather than purchase expensive equipment. All El Al passengers are interviewed individually before boarding and their identities are checked against information from the FBI, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Scotland Yard, Shin Bet and Interpol databases.
An interview requires very little of passengers, but it can be invaluable when it comes to security. Also, considering the fact that the United States spent $75 billion on intelligence last year, you’d think we could successfully integrate that knowledge at airports so screeners would be able to spend more time on notable suspects and perhaps deny them access to flights.
I think it’s important to not get so caught in up reactionary policies. There was the shoe bomber and now we remove our shoes during airport screenings. Since the underwear bomber, there has been a push to, well, look beneath underwear (using body-imaging screening). Who exactly is winning this war?
Beyond security measures, at airports and in general, is the underlying problem of “terrorism.” It would be rather nice if there weren’t people coming to the United States to try and kill us in the first place. The War on Terror is a complicated war, and I don’t claim to be an expert, but I wonder what might have happened if Obama had made good on his promise to bring our troops home, and I mean all of them. Osama bin Laden’s stated goal is to bog us down in an unwinnable war in the Middle East and bankrupt us; we sure seem to be falling into that trap.
One final thought: Exactly one week before Christmas, Obama ordered an airstrike in Yemen. Estimates are that 120 people were killed, of whom roughly 30 were al-Qaeda members. A statement released by al-Qaeda indicated the attempted underwear bombing was retaliation for the recent offensive in Yemen. We seem to be slaughtering al Qaeda members left and right and it’s not my understanding that there are a whole lot of them, so I have to wonder if the family members of the civilians we have killed become new al-Qaeda recruits. In this recent airstrike, roughly 90 civilians were killed. Perhaps the air strike made things worse for us, despite the fact that we killed roughly 30 of our enemies. I think our actions are having consequences that we are not paying attention to, and I fear many more lives will be lost before we come to our senses.