By Russell Neyman.
Has it occurred to anyone that Americans are being tricked into holding ourselves hostage? Maybe Osama bin Laden and his gang of Taliban criminals are smarter than we think and are using the nature of the Western capitalistic culture to get us to beat ourselves.
Reflecting back to the cold war, you have to realize that we waged a campaign against the Soviets for roughly four decades, finally wearing them down in the 1980’s when the USSR dissolved. Now, we never beat them on any battlefield; we simply threatened them in every way possible, draining their economy with real and fabricated subs, missiles, satellites, and high-tech weaponry. They saw the threats as real, and spent virtually every penny available to defend their vast coastlines and skies, finally going bankrupt.
If I’m bin Laden I’m going to follow that model. He realizes realizes that Americans over-react and tend to institutionalize even the smallest issue. (Aren’t we the culture that commercialized the OJ Simpson trial, Watergate, and Brittany Spears?) What I’d do, if I were him, is create a threat-of-the-month campaign, and it would only cost me the price of an Internet posting or two. Every few weeks, I’d leak out information that would indicate that some small aspect of our society was targeted for attack, and just sit back while the stupid Americans over-react and over spend to defend against it.
One month, I’d let it be known that anthrax had been put in our blueberry crop; then later, I’d let it be known that Toyota hubcaps had been tampered with so that they posed a threat to our schoolchildren. I could move on to shampoos, aspirin, salads, and toilet paper. And what would we do? We’d put armed guards around millions of lettuce fields, add security to the hubcap manufacturing plants, and put tamper-proof security strips on our hair products — all at a huge expenditure of resources and funds. All bin Laden has to do is sit back and watch as we drain our economy dry.
As a frequent traveler myself, I see the incredible long lines and resources invested in airport security, and I have to wonder if the safety net is worth the price. Do the math: at a typical airport on a single, there are literally hundreds of thousands of man hours spent in long lines while TSA staff check for fingernail clippers and suspicious jars of Vaseline, seriously sucking a large measure of our gross national product. Multiply this by thousands of airports, train stations, and border checkpoints, and factor it by the half dozen years since the last terrorist attack on American soil. (And defending against terrorism in this manner doesn’t really make sense, because if someone really wanted to crash a bomb-laden airplane into a major high rise, they could just as easily buy their own Learjet and get the job done; sneaking a weapon onto an airliner would be a stupid method at this point.) It seems like such a waste, and I wonder if we’re being duped.
OK, I admit that there is a certain risk of car bombs and hijacked airplanes, but there comes a point where we can’t allow ourselves to keep responding to every real or imaginary threat. Sure, we want to protect our citizens and our children, but at what cost. What is — and I’m not asking this question rhetorically — the value of a life? Yes, we should be willing to spend, perhaps, a billion dollars to prevent another 100 Americans from dying in a terrorist attack somewhere, but at what point do we stop buying insurance against threats that might simply be bluffs? Two billion? Ten billion? How about losing our way of life; are we willing to throw that in, too?