It has been close to a decade since 9/11 which gave birth to the War on Terrorism aka the War on Terror aka the Global War on Terror (GWOT) aka the Global Struggle against Violent Extremism (GSAVE), as well as two neverending and costly military quagmires in Iraq and Af-Pak mini-quagmires in other parts of the Broader Middle East (Somalia; Yemen; North Africa; Lebanon; Israel-Palestine) and soon -- who knows? -- perhaps even a military confrontation with Iran (which our Iraq War has helped strengthen).
Who could even start calculating the human and financial costs of all of this mess (including those widening deficits financed by the Chinese)? And then we have also expanded and thriving national security state: DNI; CIA; NSA, etc. (How Much? Who Knows?) and the new Department of Homeland Security (225,000 employees and $52 billion annual budget), and the many Beltway Bandits (KBR and Company) and Airport security (watch-out for that knife-wielding Grandma!). And let us not forget Guantanamo; Abu-Gharib; CIA rendition camps; Patriot Act; wiretapping of American citizens. And in the end it comes down to this:
---CTU. Jack Bauer speaking.
---My son is a terrorist...
--- Is that you Chloe? Very funny...
---No Klohe. Son is terrorist. Go to Pakistan. Very angry.
---Please calm down, Mme. I need to use my voice recognition technology. Are you on medication?
---He will kill people in airport tomorrow....I have passport number.
--- Mme. I'll first need to shoot your son on his knee cap to get him to talk..
---And the flight number...
---This is an insecure landline...
---Please, I know where he is hiding...
---Sorry. POTUS on my BlackBerry. This episode is over. Take care. And tet in touch next season.
So...before airport security screening will feel like your annual medical check-up ("Sir, I will need to insert my finger into your rectum!") and American troops will head into Yemen (which makes as much sense as staying in Afghanistan), here are some common sense ideas -- which go beyond the conservative/liberal dichotomy -- aimed at preventing anti-American terrorism:
- Send all the men and women doing the security screening at the airports to work at supermarket checkouts ("Paper or Plastic?") where they belong and hire some of the many unemployed college graduates who have an IQ range above 85 and who are fluent in one or two languages other than Spanish (like English, for example).
- Sorry, when it comes to security, some sort of "profiling" has to take place. Let's agree that old ladies who look like Barbara Bush should not be patted down and be asked to remove their bras, and let us spend more time checking-out that very angry young man who wears "I Love Osama" t-shirt. Bottom Line: If possible, do not allow young and radical Muslims to get into the country. And kick out those who are already here. Let them have fun in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. And stay there.
- Intelligence! Intelligence! Intelligence! (Like the "I" in the CIA). That is basically how you catch the bad guys before they do us any harm. This country has some of the smartest, highly-educated, tech-savvy and multilingual men and women in the world, including those unemployed investment bankers. Replace the current alphabet soup of bureaucracies with one or two cost-effective intelligence units with new brand names and attract the best and the brightest into their ranks (including gays who are fluent in Arabic and Parsi).
- If possible, avoid invading other countries, especially those with large young and radical Muslim populations. It is not America's job to do "regime change" and bring democracy and human rights to non-Western societies that are just coming out of the Stone Age. We would love to trade and do other (peaceful) business with those countries. But if they are not interested, let them figure out on their own what political and economic system they want to embrace. We should not interject ourselves into their internal fights and civil wars which only end-up producing 9/11-like blowbacks aka terrorism. Bottom Line: It is not our "way of life" that these terrorists are targeting (they do not target Switzerland) but it is our policies that they hate.
- Flowing out of (4): The time has come to reassess American policy in the Middle East,a process that should have begun when the Cold War ended. U.S. policymakers need to recognize that the main rationale for U.S. intervention in the Middle East -- the Soviet threat -- has long since disappeared, and that U.S. military intervention in the region only ignites anti-Americanism in the form of international terrorism. Moreover, contrary to conventional wisdom, the U.S. economy is not dependent on Mideast oil; 70 percent of U.S. energy supplies do not originate in the Middle East. The United States is actually more dependent on Latin American oil than it is on Saudi and Persian Gulf oil (so let us invade Venezuela?) And the notion that U.S. policy in the Middle East helps give Americans access to cheap and affordable oil makes little sense, if one considers the military and other costs -- including two Gulf Wars -- that are added to the price the U.S. consumer pays for driving. Washington needs to understand that it does not have the power to resolve these disputes. It should engage in the Middle East through trade and investment and by providing support to those who want to be allies. But by trying to force a U.S. mind-set and values on the nations of the Middle East, Washington will only erode its power and produce more anti-Americanism.
- Terrorism is a manageable threat and not the end of the world as we know it. It is not comparable in any way to the existential threat that the Soviet Union had posed to the United States during the Cold War. On an average, there are more than 6 million car accidents on the roads of the US, annually. More than 3 million people get injured due to car accidents, with more than 2 million of these injuries being permanent. And there are in excess of 40,000 deaths due to car accidents every year. And yet no one has proposed the idea of launching a "war on car accidents." The Europeans have learned how to deal with the threat of terrorism. And notwithstanding major civilian casualties and assassinations of public figures, Britain, France and Germany have survived and prospered.