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Campus Media Response: Intrusive Airport Security at Home is the Inevitable Price of Weakness Abroad

The Editorial Board of the The Alligator at the University of Florida expressestypical American outrage over the new intrusive security at airports:

The main question Americans face is not one of ultimate safety — as the Yemen-originated printer bombs did not have to pass through an intrusive pat down — but rather: How many civil liberties are we willing to relinquish for the government to tell us we’re finally safe?

We strongly recognize that the threat of terrorism is ever-present as the series of printer bombs has shown us, but we also agree that TSA’s pat-down procedures and virtually strip searching full-body scans do little if anything to solve terrorism’s increasingly intelligent methods….

Stand up for your rights, Gators. Sexual assault should not be a requirement for flying. Or you can always report those dissidents who want to keep their civil liberties for thoughtcrime.

Whether or not the TSA’s enhanced security measures are genuine violations of civil liberty, it is clear that they are an affront to civilized dignity. But travelers genuinely concerned about these measures should think seriously about what has brought us to the point of having to endure them.

It has been more than nine years since the attacks of 9/11, but it is not clear that we are any safer from the threat of an Islamic terrorist attack. A recent series of successful or attempted terrorist attacks—the Fort Hood massacre, the “underwear” Christmas bomber, the Times Square Bomber, and most recently, a would-be bomber in Portland captured by an FBI sting over Thanksgiving—demonstrate that the enemies of the United States have not lost their motivation to attack. What would the critics of the TSA have us do to oppose this threat?

Typically, the liberal critics who lament alleged infringements on domestic civil liberties—whether in the form of intrusive airport security, or warrantless wiretaps, or profiling—are the same critics who have urged the United States to show restraint in its war against Islamic totalitarian states and their proxies. But it is precisely our restraint abroad that necessitates intrusion into the lives of American citizens at home.

Some may find it difficult to believe that our wars in the Middle East have been inhibited. But the war against Islamic totalitarianism (the ideology espoused by terrorist groups like al-Qaeda) has now dragged on for nine years, nearly twice the length of World War II. Yet the enemy we face is far weaker than Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. Why is it that a comparatively weaker enemy continues to threaten us?

During World War II, Americans accepted restrictions at home as part of a concerted war effort which they knew was undertaken to ensure overwhelming defeat of our enemies in a short period of time. Today’s drawn-out, relatively low-intensity conflict with insurgents in Afghanistan is the equivalent of fighting a guerilla war against Fascist Italy while ignoring Germany. The longer we ignore the political and spiritual center of Islamic totalitarianism in Iran (to name just one prominent example), the longer this war will drag on, the more emboldened terrorists will become, and the more we will face the prospect of living our lives under permanent domestic lockdown.

The choice is either-or: either we identify our enemies explicitly and fight a war abroad fought in a manner to bring about decisive victory, or we allow our home to become both a target and a prison. As Felipe Sediles argued in the pages of The Undercurrent four years ago,

In order to end the threat of future attacks and to delimit the life and scope of new police-state powers, we must therefore demand a war declaration, not further open-ended law-enforcement measures. Rather than worrying about how and when we place individual terrorists on trial, Congress must place regimes who support terrorists “on trial,” declare them to be enemies of the United States, and demand their unconditional surrender as the objective of war. . . . [I]f we are to protect our liberty from an unlimited, ever-encroaching police-state–and from foreign enemies who would impose their own police state on us–nothing short of a clear, confident declaration of war will suffice.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

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Valery Publius is the pen name of a teacher living in the American South.