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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Celebrating a Failure of Civic Duty

As written in a post entitled Hoystory » What they knew and when they knew it, Matthew Hoy berates the New York Times for not revealing the illegal NSA wiretapping program (which Hoy describes as a "terrorist surveilence program," despite that it targets law-abiding American citizens) as soon as they knew about it. The reason he gives, however, is as fine an absurdity as you'll likely find on the Internet:

Frankly, the second-best choice (the best choice being not revealing the program at all) would have been for the Times to reveal the it when it first discovered it. Democrats would’ve beenforced to take a responsible position — not the politically convenientone — and endorse the program and trash the Times. The year-plus delay served to give the paper, and Democrats, some cover.

So, basically, Hoy seems to wish that both the Democrats and the Times would abandon the American people to be victims of this administration's war on the Constitution. Not revealing an illegal program that you have knowledge of can hardly but be considered a deriliction of duty, and makes one an accessory to that crime. This unethical and illegal program stripped American citizens of their Fourth Ammendment rights, as well as any right or privledge to privacy. Furthermore, the program could not be considered to be effective, as before it was commenced, we already knew that the methods by which many terrorists choose to communicate are invisible to this program, such as the shipping of prepaid cell phones to other countries.

Whenever a program strips citizens of their rights and lets terrorists go unchecked, while at the same time violating the law, I would hope that all citizens would at the very least feel transgressed, and not celebrate any derilictions of duty which occur.

While I may respect that others have different viewpoints on how to combat terrorism, broad and untargeted wiretapping is unethical, ineffective and illegal. Targeted wiretapping, with warrents obtained through open or secret courts, against those strongly suspected of terrorism does work. In fact, this is what Britian used to foil the most recent airplane-related terror plot. Remind me again how it would have been a good thing for the Times to fall through on their duty as a journalistic enterprise? You know, the watchdogs of democracy?

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Pacifism Meets Godwin's Law: Debunking a strawman argument.

Whenever I hear about some kind of "do no harm" attitude I always want to ask "does it pass the WW2 test?" What I mean is, would you really have preferred to have sat by and watched the Holocaust happen rather than fight? If so, then I consider the concept morally bankrupt.
-- theStorminMormon (883615)
It is truly unfortunate to see pacifism treated in such a disrespectful manner. This argument, if one could call it that, is a straw man. It discounts entirely that the point for pacifism and diplomacy had passed: by the time the Holocaust had begun, the choice to engage in violence had been made through inaction. Were pacifism applied to the events of WW2, more efforts would have been made to preserve peace before Hitler took power. To say that WW2 is an argument against pacifism is to substitute blatant emotional appeal for rational discourse, and is, in effect, distorting the claims made by pacifists to paint them with the same brush as the Nazis.

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