Tuesday, August 15, 2006

At What Cost: A rational approach to security.

"No such thing as a free lunch."

Security always comes at the comes at the cost of something else. We must ask ourselves what we are willing to sacrifice in the name of security; what we are willing to accept in return. There are certainly those who show no such introspection, as is evidenced by the article titled News Hounds: Fox News Airs Call for 'Muslim-Only' Line. People like those described seem to think that there is no trade off- that those target by such profiling are unworthy of consideration. This can hardly be further from the case.

Making a sacrifice.

Despite warnings from those such as Benjamin Franklin, there are those among us who are willing to make an exchange of liberty for security. This exchange, however, is rarely thought through to its logical extremities. If one is to make this choice, then a firm line must be made, or else we end up with an entire state of matter being forbidden. Worse, we could have just as easily been in a state like the British find themselves now: forbidden from even carrying their own personal effects. Are we too far from the old rag about flying naked?

If sacrifices are to be made, they must be made in the context of a strong system of legal oversight to ensure that limits imposed on the extent of the sacrifice are held. Of course, by definition, sacrificing liberty means sacrificing one's ability to redress grievances if this accountability is not observed.

Fair exchange.

It would be ridiculous to make these kinds of sacrifices without even having any security to show for it, but that is exactly where we find ourselves. Air travel is no more secure for our having made these sacrifices, and so we might consider that, as a populous, we have been cheated. To support this claim, consider the massive problems with the revised security procedures advanced by the TSA:

Sadly, these problems are only part of a larger progression of ever worse security, being brought to us in exchange for our liberties. Indeed, non-solutions such as racial profiling distract us from the real problems, as do such statistical nightmares as our generation's polygraph. Our fear is being co-opted, and we are being swindled by power-hungry fiends.

Remember, a public system cannot be perfectly secure. Especially not one as trafficked as the airline system. There will always be ways around security, whether it be through body cavities or through sneaking in modified fast food ingredient shipments. Besides, security goes beyond the airports, and as we tighten the airline system, we lose sight of the general problem.

A solution.

We don't have to make these choices. We don't have to choose between liberty and security. As we have seen, blindly ignoring the costs of security makes us both less secure and less free. Instead, let us pursue diplomatic and humanitarian means of resolving the underlying problems of which terrorism is a symptom. It is hard work, and comes at the cost of many years of diplomatic endeavors, but leaves us free, secure and respected in the world. Not that security should be eschewed altogether, but such procedures as are in place today should not be relied upon, but should be secondary to fixing underlying causes of violence.

Surely, our liberty is worth a bit of patience, and a fair spot of work? At the very least, a diplomatic nation is a secure nation.

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