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‘With Failures Like This Who Needs Victories?’

December 27, 2009

Here is a comment from Monsieur Steyn on the reaction to the failed terror attack on Northwest 253:

Well, the authorities have reacted to the Pantybomber in the usual way:

Passengers getting off both U.S. domestic flights and those arriving from overseas reported being told that they couldn’t get out of their seat for the last hour of their flight. Air Canada also said that during the last hour passengers won’t be allowed access to carry-on baggage or to have any items on their laps.

That’s great news, isn’t it?

This was a failed terror plot. But with failures like this who needs victories? If that Air Canada rule becomes generally applicable, that last hour will be a big time-waster for some of us. But no doubt some enterprising jihadist will attempt to self-detonate in mid-flight or shortly after take-off, and pretty soon we’ll have to sit in isolation for the full seven or eight hours. Another couple of attempted takedowns and they might as well ship us freight.

Indeed, this regulation by Air Canada gives the impression that the question asked was not ‘How can we increase security?’, but ‘What can we do to give passengers the illusion that something is done to increase security?’ And the answer was that, surely, people will welcome an extra inconvenience in exchange for a false sense of greater safety. So let’s invent a chicanery to transform fear of terror attacks into a mix of anger about silly security rules and the illusion that the powers that be are up to the challenge of keeping everybody safe.

Steyn is right:

Playing the game this way lets the terrorists set the rules and forces us to react defensively to every innovation. What difference does it make whether the plot succeeds? After all, long after Richard Reid has died of old age in prison, we’ll still be removing our footwear in eternal homage to the thwarted shoebomber.

The arithmetic is very simple: Can we regulate for all faster than they can adapt for some?

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