So, in regards to all this talk about the TSA molesting people, I’m going to go ahead and take a step back here and say that I object to the current TSA policies on the basis of their practicality and lack of necessity before I even get around to objecting to them on any sort of moral grounds.
First of all, in the last 10 years, a grand total of about 3000 Americans have died as a result of terrorists hijacking airplanes. In that same time period, approximately 7 billion plane tickets have been used just on flights originating from the US.
There were 33,000 deaths from car accidents just in 2009, which is down significantly from the 40,000+ almost every other year for the past decade and more. And yet, there are no metal detectors, no scanners, no pat downs before you get in your car.
Compare that to a total of 49 fatalities from one accidental crash of a domestic flights and one failed terrorist attempt on an airline in the same year. So, why do we accept so much more invasive security procedures for airlines than the security measures we could even conceive of for cars (or much of anything else)?
The main justifications given are the claim that airplanes have the potential to be far more deadly than cars when used as a weapon, and the assumption that terrorists are primarily intent on using airplanes to kill us.
While it is true that a single airplane has the potential to be more deadly than a single car, the overall risk of automobile accidents still vastly outweighs that of both accidental and intentional deaths from commercial air flight, so that hardly justifies the difference in security. And yes, the deadliest terrorist attack in American history was carried out with four airplanes, but the second deadliest terrorist attack in American history, the Oklahoma City bombing, was carried out with a bomb placed in the back of a truck. Considering that none of the legislation passed in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing did much of anything to prevent similar attacks from happening in the future (the type of fertilizer used to create the bomb can still be bought freely without identification in all but two states), we are no safer from terrorist attacks by any means but by plane than we were 15 years ago.
While it is arguably more feasible to screen all airplane passengers than it would be to attempt to screen all drivers before they get behind the wheel of a car, that’s mainly due to the lower volume of airline traffic. Spending the same amount on random traffic stops to check for intoxicated drivers would likely save far more lives than the TSA is saving, and yet the average American would find them much more invasive.
The only reason that so many Americans are willing to put up with the TSA’s procedures is that Americans are still highly offended by the 9/11 attacks and fearful of continued and future attempts to carry out similar attacks, no matter how irrational it may be to think the TSA’s newest procedures are a cost effective method of preventing such attacks or of saving lives more generally.
Sadly, the most cost effective method of preventing further terrorist attacks won’t even be considered by most Americans, because most simply aren’t willing to look at the factors that contribute to terrorism, much less consider the motivations of the attackers. Many Americans, especially conservatives, are especially unwilling to consider the possibility that America may have made mistakes as a nation that that have contributed to terrorism. It’s considered “un-American” to question our foreign policy (despite how American it is to question everything else our government does). So, unfortunately, the fact that so many of our foreign policy initiatives are significantly more un-American will unfortunately be lost on the average voter.
Our most questionable international actions are always justified by the premise that our government must act to protect our national interests abroad. What these interests are is rarely questioned, but generally accepted to be our business or economic interests. However, America has always attempted to define itself as a nation based on principle, on morals and ideals. That said, shouldn’t our foreign policy reflect those ideals, the ideals of our founders? If so, how well does our foreign policy live up to those ideals? For all our rhetoric about spreading democracy to the Middle East, what kind of track record do we really have of promoting representative government, or supporting individual liberty in the region?
Sadly, not much of one. The obvious examples of our failure to live up to the principles our nation was founded on are almost too numerous to list, but here are some of them: In 1953 we overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran and installed a dictator. We supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s during his war with Iran despite the knowledge that Iraq was engaged in chemical warfare. We supported the Taliban and trained many of the people who went on to hold key positions in Al Qaeda in order to prevent Soviet expansion, despite being fully aware of their fundamentalist, anti-democratic views. The US defended Kuwait during the Gulf War and stationed troops in both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia after the war, both dictatorships which showed even less of a semblance of democracy than Hussein’s Iraq.
The fact that these actions were mistakes has been borne out by history. Iran overthrew the government we imposed, only to replace it with an even more repressive government. Encouraging Hussein’s militarism only led him to start another war. Supporting religious extremists to slow Soviet expansion ultimately contributed to the deaths of 3000 Americans, and supporting a repressive dictatorship in Saudi Arabia caused 15 dissidents from that country to be among the 19 people who carried out the 9/11 attacks.
Unfortunately, we have hardly learned from our mistakes. Our recent $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia is proof of that, as is the fact that Egypt continues to be one of the largest recipients of US aid, despite the fact that their government is a republic in name only and has been ruled as a single party dictatorship for the past 50 years. We continue to give hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Jordan, a monarchy with extremely limited areas of representative government, and more than a hundred million to Kazakhstan, a country whose leaders routinely defy its constitution to guarantee their continued rule. As the land of the free, the least we should require of any country asking us for aid should be that they be a democratic republic, but we have spent decades refusing to hold even this reasonable standard and we have suffered for it and will continue to suffer for it.
However, adopting a foreign policy of refusing to support dictatorship does not necessarily mean that overthrowing dictators and attempting to install democracies, as we did in Iraq, is necessarily a positive endeavor. In the case of our own history, it’s true that we did receive outside help, primarily from France, during our own war for independence. However, this help came only after we had displayed our own willingness to fight for representative government. Freedom was not imposed on us, and freedom is a difficult thing to impose on others. Much of the corruption we are currently seeing in the new Afghan government is due to the fact that Afghanistan had no tradition of representative government, and no drive on the part of its people to create one. Iraq, at least, had some semblance of representative government under Hussein, but even so, it took the better part of a decade to stabilize the country and government due to the fact that his people were not actively working to create the type of government we wanted to see in Iraq, and it is still considered unlikely that the country will remain stable when American troops finally withdraw.