Like the general who hones his military strategy by fighting the last war, America’s politicians and some of its counterterrorism experts are engaged in thwarting future terrorist threats by diligently preparing for the past. Muslim-Arab terrorists hijack planes (this actually dates back to the 1960s, not 2001), and all passengers and luggage must be carefully searched.
A Muslim “shoe bomber” attempts to explode an aircraft in 2001, and all passengers thenceforth must have their shoes inspected before boarding. Another Muslim – the recent “underwear bomber” – tries to do the same, and all passengers, as soon as feasible, will be subject to body scans and intrusive searches. And the likelihood that another Muslim will try to explode an aircraft with a bomb smuggled in his carry-on, shoes, or underwear? Slim, at best. The terrorists move on, adapt their strategies to the new restrictions and develop new means of potential mayhem. And we still fight the last war. Why?
The sad truth is that America, Israel and the West generally do not have a plan for victory, and, for the most part, do not even speak of victory. President Obama, who never utters the words victory or terrorism, articulated a plan that is fundamentally defensive in nature – more TSA workers, more screening, more invasive searches, etc. – but does not begin to address the reality of the enemy that has declared war on civilization.
The focus is almost exclusively on what is called “the protocol” – having the right system in place so that in the event of a catastrophe, the politicians and bureaucrats can cover their tracks and rely on “the protocol” – even if “the protocol” is either unnecessary or ineffective in dealing with the threat. They are procedures that are intended more to save jobs than they are to save lives, and they unnecessarily inconvenience millions rather than expose the few hundred likely targets.
Who but a bureaucrat living in a bureaucratic bubble could have devised a system in which passengers using the self check-in system at the airport (or online) are asked whether or not they are carrying bombs, weapons or other hazardous items? For the overwhelming majority of passengers, the question is obviously ludicrous – and for the miniscule few to whom it might apply, can we seriously expect a truthful answer? Did the bureaucrat assume a Muslim might blow up an airliner and murder hundreds of innocents, but would never lie about it? Or did he expect some would answer truthfully (“yes, I have a small explosive device in my left shoe, thank you for asking”), and thereby engender the “reasonable suspicion” needed to make further inquiries?
One additional question: Seven years into the security afforded by TSA, has even one Arab terrorist been apprehended at an airport checkpoint? Not to my knowledge, though TSA is doing a banner business in shampoo and water bottle confiscations.
In a world in which anyone with a functioning intellect and below-average vision sees that virtually all terrorists are Muslims, even if not all Muslims are terrorists, the solution to the air terrorism problem lies mostly in screening all Muslims and Arabs – i.e., racial profiling. At this point in time, not to single out potential perpetrators from the masses of innocents is political correctness run amok, or, said another way, rank insanity.
Israel routinely profiles air travelers based on factors such as background – we have all experienced the pointed questions of El Al interrogators that are intended to weed out the few who, by their answers, mannerisms, facial expressions or Arabic accents require special attention.
In a perfect world it would be nice to treat everyone equally, but in a perfect world everyone would act decently. The world is far from perfect, and a defined group has created a scourge that has murdered thousands of people across the globe, heightened the anxieties of billions more, and lusts for even more spilled blood. The extent to which guiltless Arabs and Muslims are offended by this discrimination has an upside to it: they can trigger a revolution in their societies to denounce, ostracize and eliminate these miscreants from their midst.
Will such a policy engender anger and hatred against Western society by these same guiltless Arabs? Anyone who believes that is actually part of the problem, having swallowed the propaganda fostered by those with perpetual and insoluble grievances against decent mankind. Despite the hostile anti-American propaganda emanating from the Arab world, America still opens its doors and universities to Arab students. (Perhaps this outreach should also be reconsidered while the war rages, especially when it involves individuals from countries or regions where terrorists are coddled.)
The broader problem is the “legalization” of conflict that is an affliction of the modern left. In the drive for perfect equality and the obliteration of any distinctions between good and evil, the rights of the few imperil the protections of the many. Thus, the left recoils at the notion of racial profiling because the innocents in the defined class will be offended. Law, then, serves to destabilize society rather than promote its general welfare.
That is also the message sent when terrorists who attack Americans and others are treated as common criminals – defendants rather than ruthless thugs. Certainly the protections afforded to soldiers by the Geneva Conventions do not apply to terrorists – to combatants of non-state actors who do not wear uniforms and prey on citizens.
In a recent example of the growing incapacity of the political left to combat the evil within, Israel’s High Court recently ordered the re-opening to Arab traffic of Highway 443 – a major artery linking Modiin and Jerusalem – years after Arabs were barred from that road because of their persistent terror. Clearly, the price for the court’s “moral” vision will be dead and maimed Jews. Equally as clearly, the court is adamantly refusing to recognize that a state of war exists between two societies in the land of Israel, and that the rights of civilized citizens should take precedence over the rights of hostile non-citizens.
And yet another example: In what should be a bizarre bit of satire but is not, Israel’s chief of staff directed that the IDF consult with legal advisers during military operations (instead of in the planning stage, as is done now) in order to ensure compliance with international law. Perhaps each soldier should also be provided with a personal lawyer on retainer (in addition to a weapon and a mess kit) that he can consult before firing his weapon or artillery.
Such a ruling does more than merely impair military efficiency and morale; it sends a message to the enemy of weakness, vacillation, vulnerability and loss of will to win. It does not underscore that we are better – we know we are better – but that we are more foolish, allowing enemies of civilization to exploit our freedom and moral aspirations and use them as weapons against us, at the same time they are unencumbered by any such commitments.
Taken together, the criminalization of terror, the eschewing of profiling, the opening of one major highway (surely to be followed by others) to terrorists and the supporters and facilitators of terror, and the lawyerization of warfare – all desired objectives of the enemy because it weakens the ability of moral man to fight – demonstrate that the American and Israeli political/judicial left are incapable of fighting a modern, asymmetrical war.
It should be obvious that society must make choices, and must carefully choose to inflict minor inconveniences on some in order to protect the rights – and the lives – of the many. The search for perfect justice – a fantasy of the left – unwittingly strengthens and perpetuates evil, enervates our will to win, and victimizes the good and the decent, who, if not defeated first, will surely arise and come to their senses, vanquish the external enemy and overcome those who pervert justice and morality within our countries.
We can assist by holding accountable our politicians and leaders – in the United States and Israel – to the standards of decency and morality that are practicable during the course of a protracted and ugly war, and thereby hasten the day when the foes of mankind will be subjugated and humbled.
Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey, and the author most recently of “Judges for our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Yehoshua (Gefen Publishing, 2009). He writes at www.rabbipruzansky.com.