Moral Outrage
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5 Myths about Terrorism

Stephen Flynn of the Center for National Policy writes in the Washington Post of 5 Myths concerning keeping America safe from terrorism:

1. Terrorism is the gravest threat facing the American people. – Americans are at far greater risk of being killed in accidents or by viruses than by acts of terrorism. In 2008, more than 37,300 Americans perished on the nation’s highways, according to government data. It is how we react — or more precisely, how we overreact — to the threat of terrorism that makes it an appealing tool for our adversaries.

2. When it comes to preventing terrorism, the only real defense is a good offense. – The cornerstone of the Bush administration’s approach to dealing with the terrorist threat was to take the battle to the enemy. But offense has its limits. We still aren’t generating sufficiently accurate and timely tactical intelligence to adequately support U.S. counterterrorism efforts overseas.

3. Getting better control over America’s borders is essential to making us safer. – Our borders will never serve as a meaningful line of defense against terrorism. The inspectors at our ports, border crossings and airports have important roles when it comes to managing immigration and the flow of commerce, but they play only a bit part in stopping would-be attackers. This is because terrorist threats do not originate at our land borders with Mexico and Canada.

4. Investing in new technology is key to better security. – Not necessarily. Technology can be helpful, but too often it ends up being part of the problem. Placing too much reliance on sophisticated tools such as X-ray machines often leaves the people staffing our front lines consumed with monitoring and troubleshooting these systems. Consequently, they become more caught up in process than outcomes. Two lessons the U.S. military has learned from combating insurgents: First, don’t do things in rote and predictable ways, and second, don’t alienate the people you are trying to protect. Too much of what is promoted as homeland security disregards these lessons.

5. Average citizens aren’t an effective bulwark against terrorist attacks. – Elite pundits and policymakers routinely dismiss the ability of ordinary people to respond effectively when they are in harm’s way. It’s ironic that this misconception has animated much of the government’s approach to homeland security since Sept. 11, 2001, given that the only successful counterterrorist action that day came from the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93. Similar with the attempted Christmas Day attack. Once again it was the government that fell short, not ordinary people. A concerned Nigerian father, not the CIA or the National Security Agency, came forward with crucial information. And the courageous actions of the Dutch film director Jasper Schuringa and other passengers and crew members aboard Flight 253 thwarted the attack.

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