Thursday, September 09, 2010

Essential Freedoms for Temporary Security

Two wildly different links to a singular topic.

Maitri recounts an attempt to reenter the United States.

The Daily Dish examines the self-perpetuation and excesses of the security state.

So what will we get, when we have a marginally effective, non-accountable security apparatus with bi-partisan support that spends too much of its time and resources going after phantom security threats?

For one, that leaves us about as safe as we were on the evening of September 10, 2001, as the majority of resources will always be tasked somewhere other than where we are most vulnerable. And those resources are very, very expensive to a nation that can ill afford government inefficiencies at this time. Meaning that, even in a system with many resources, there will never be enough. After all, some other phantom security threat may need looking into. Real security threats are expensive to investigate, after all, and if you get something wrong regarding a Real Security Threat, you might be held responsible if it All Goes Wrong.

Meanwhile, Phantom security threats give you all the resources, and none of the liabilities. One wonders why we make fun of bureaucratic inefficiencies.

Two, phantom security threats ensure the Orwellian nightmare that anyone can be a target at any time for any reason. Third, even if you are completely innocent, yet end up considered a phantom security threat, there's little you can do to explain your way out of it. Facts are easily seen as lies if you're playing outside reality to begin with.

And, Four: now they can torture you. Now they can torture your friends. Now they can torture your spouse or parents. Now they can torture your kids.

And you can't do anything about it.

Luckily, America has always been a nation of loosely directed chaos, so the whole of society may move on to something completely different one day without even dropping off a memo to the old guard. That doesn't mean we won't have to deal with excesses and failures and blunders in the meantime.



DADvocate said...

In general, I agree with Sullivan. But, he has to take his cheap shots at the straw man "GOP base." Plus, he continues to play the blame Bush game. Obama fails in human rights and civil liberties - it's Bush's fault. Intellectual dishonesty at its finest.

I guarantee you the Dem base isn't as interested in liberties and freedom as entitlements and an equality based on dragging everyone down, a la Harrison Bergeron.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I'm with you on the second point. While I like to think I represent the base of the Democratic Party, reality forces me to think otherwise. Though it should be noted that one of the most consistent complaints about Bush and Obama from the left is the security apparatus issue.

But you won't see the same level of criticism for both of them because A) Obama stopped the interrogations many considered torture; B) even if they disagree with Obama on the security measures, no credible political alternative exists because C) on this issue, the positions of McCain and Clinton were very similar in nature to what is in practice now.

And people will alwasy associate Bush and Cheney with torture, despite our nation's sometimes ugly history. Had this only been a Lincolnist suspension of rights during wartime, or a Rooseveltian internment, or Trumanish/Ike subversion of dissent in sattelite nations (or support of same), or any of so many other examples, it could be let go. But even when those behaviors were committed historically, there were few credible leaders actively defending them as the right thing to do.

Bush and Cheney moved those goalposts into a surprising territory of engaging in these activities many consider torture, defending those activites on legal and political grounds and then using that defense as a political tool.

I also get the shots at the "GOP base." My conversations with many who would consider themselves in that group have convinced me that he is correct. Maybe this is just my individual experience, but over the last 9 years, I have been absolutely shocked at how many people have defended activities I consider torture as legitimate interrogation methods.

And even if they do consider it wrong under normal circumstances, they have rationalized those activities based on irrational fears. A few even boast about those activities as some sort of responsive catharsis - which to me is the most terrifying.

And when I dare explain to them that I consider those behaviors torture - morally wrong - as well as ineffective and counterproductive to real international and security goals, I have been lambasted as an America-hating peacenik.

DADvocate said...

While I like to think I represent the base of the Democratic Party, reality forces me to think otherwise. Though it should be noted that one of the most consistent complaints about Bush and Obama from the left is the security apparatus issue.

I can't honestly think of myself as the base of any political party although I come closest to Libertarian. I happen to be a registered Democrat because I wanted to have a meaningful vote in the last presidential primary. (Voted of Hillary in the primary and history has already shown that was probably the best vote.)

I have consistent complaints about the security apparatus also, based on human/civil rights. When the Patriot Act was first being passed, when so many Dems were for it before they were against it, I was against it. At the time I didn't know what a blog was but emailed Neil Cavuto (sp?) at FoxNews calling him an apologist for supporting it.

Tragically, too few in the U.S. believe in rights anymore, except for entitlement rights. Yesterday Instapundit linked to this tidbit from the World Economic Forum that shows the U.S. 40th in property rights behind China, Gambia and Jordan among others. Equality has become a siren song luring many to virtual slavery to the state. Remember, everybody in prison is equal, probably the most equal of anywhere.