Terrorism: Are there Winners in the War?

Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest travel periods of the year, and some wag is promoting the idea of an “opt-out” protest on the airliners. The idea is for airline-bound ticketholders to choose a “pat down” rather than be subjected to the X-ray lens naked-machine.

Anyone encouraging others to promote a more time-consuming procedure has never spent time on the runway stuck in a plane. Can’t get on, can’t get off. Can’t fly. Can’t change plans. Once, I considered using the on-board phone to call police in hopes of being rescued from what would have been kidnapping, had anyone else but the airline pulled it off.

I’m not saying the “porn machines” are the answer, either.

The choices at the airport are like dining options when you find yourself stuck in the desert. You can try to catch and eat a raw snake, or you can gobble up some ants and swallow quickly. It’s a hard thing to recommend one over the other.

The point of terrorism? The simple answer is “to invoke fear.” To that extent, the terrorists have won, on some fronts.

We aren’t afraid to pack ourselves into giant stadiums as round as a bullseye, and cheer with reckless abandon over a sporting contest. We don’t worry for our safety when we pull up to a polling place to cast a vote. There are more drive-by shootings in the U.S. than improvised explosive devices, those IEDs that are knocking off our troops with troubling regularity in Afghanistan. Most of us are more afraid of the price at the gas pump than getting in and driving our cars on the busiest of expressways.

The government is scared to death, though, when it comes airlines. Perhaps with some justification, given the national tragedy of 9-11, the government is wringing its regulatory hands, reacting to each incident after the fact. Terrorists do not have a track record of repeating their methods, but the government isn’t catching on to that.

We have to have the inside of our underwear checked, because of that would-be bomber. Shoes off for inspection: that bomber. Prohibitions on snippy metal tools – a result of the box-knifer. Shampoos? Nixed because of that liquid terrorist.

Travelers are upset at the airline restrictions. The government says they are necessary for our safety, actions that we have to be subjected to to remain ahead of the terrorists. The problem is – by carrying out these reactions to terrorist threats, we document the fear for our safety, the fear of terrorism. Which, by definition, is its point.

There are bright minds working on the problems facing airline security, no doubt, along with some that seem to be working in the dark.

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