I am taking a break from my step-by-step series on the harmfulness of protectionism to comment on current events. Just a break, I will go back to the series soon.
Try as I may, I can’t get exercised about the new airport security measures that are currently being decried all over the media. Being seen naked by strangers in another room and even being patted down by a person of the same sex (who might be a homosexual, of course but what the hell!) do not rank high on my list of catastrophes. That’s especially true if it decreases the probability of a real catastrophe. By the way, the experts I hear on this are far from enthusiastic about the new procedures’ effectiveness.
I suspect there is a “subtext” to this story, as my post-modernist academic friends would say. People are not really pissed off at the indignity of nakedness before strangers, or at the indignity of being groped by strangers. They are furious about another kind of collective, national indignity: We have become such wusses in this country that it makes us collectively stupid. How low we have gone! Almost everyone sees the obvious: The airline that is certain to be the number one target of violent jihadists and of other, non-religious, terrorists, has never had a serious safety incident. I am speaking of the Israeli airline, El Al, of course.
The secret to this huge Israeli success is not a secret. Everyone in the airline industry, everyone worldwide who has security responsibilities knows what it is: El Al does not rely on increasingly sophisticated, increasingly intrusive, yet necessarily imperfect high technology. Instead, its security people profile systematically, relentlessly and, more importantly, remorselessly. They ask more questions of a 25-year old, male, Arab, Muslim college graduate than they do of a 90-year old Orthodox rabbi. Jews are so clever!
Since it seems I have to spell it out, here is how American profiling would go: 95% of deadly terrorist incidents in the past ten years have been committed by Muslims. I don’t care if they were good Muslims or bad Muslims. I don’t care if their interpretation of Islam is correct or not. I would prefer to be able to do it but only mildly because what I propose to do is not cruel, disfiguring or irreversible. I am thinking of a mild degree of discomfort that does not seem to be appreciably more severe than what Muslim travelers are already suffering, not as Muslims, but as travelers.
Here is the proposal: Give special attention to travelers with Muslim names. It turns out that Muslim names are distinctive irrespective of country or language. I refer, here to the combination of first name, second name and third names, as the case may be. As I write, it would be difficult to find a single Muslim named Peter Smith, or Pierre Dupont, or Giancarlo Lambini, or Hans Gut.
Of course, as the most alert among you will have noticed, violent jihadists and other Muslim terrorists can always change their names. They could go from, say: Abdul Mohamed Hamid to John Woodpecker. That’s fine, let them. It’s such an unusual measure, it’s processed through such narrow administrative or judicial channels, that any Muslim who does it will inevitably draw attention to himself or to herself. It would be like lighting a red light on his or her head for security services to follow. Any such Muslim name changer detained for anything, such as spitting on the sidewalk, would have some explaining to do with respect to the name change. Anyone charged with terrorism before a jury would essentially be forced to plead guilty because there is hardly an innocent reason for a Muslim to change his name to a non-Muslim name. In fact, it’s a kind of minor apostasy from an Islamic standpoint. (I am no making a theological assessement but a cultural remark based on good observation.)
So, my plan call for inviting would-be passengers with Muslim names to step into a separate line and then to ask them questions, observe them and give them a choice between a body scan and a pronounced pat down, as in the current plan for all passengers. Focusing on fewer then 5% of passengers ( I am guessing) rather than a 100%, TSA could do a real thorough job. It would have the resources to follow through on hunches that make much of the success of other security personnel such as cops and customs officers. At least, violent male jihadists in burkas and face covering would have a fair chance of detection! TSA could also allow its bloated, soon unionized work force of tenured, overpaid high-school graduates to atrophy naturally. Or it could re-deploy them where they would to more good, inspecting cargo ships before they enter American harbors, for example. Another idea would be to make them un-inspected cargo that now flies in the planes are body-scanned and groped passengers.
Of course, many Muslims would be outraged at first. TSA could point out calmly and repeatedly that this economical approach to terrorism prevention protects Muslims as well as other passengers, and Muslim children as well as Christian, and even Jewish children, traveling by plane. Personally, I believe that any Muslim passenger who would argue that protecting Muslim children is not worth the small inconvenience I describe would designate himself as a potential terrorist. Muslim organizations would raise a great cry of discrimination that should be ignored. The moral basis for doing so is that they either represent Muslims in America or not. They may not protest about the Muslim woman who was insulted casually on a bus in the South one time because she wore the hijab and then argue that the Pantie bomber, the Time Square Bomber, Major Hasan, all explicitly Muslim mass murderers, are none of their affair. They might sue with the silly geese of the ACLU, probably. I say, let them and let them pay the corresponding price in public opprobrium. So far, they have gotten off easy with their passivity.
A small technical note: Muslim organizations are already arguing that being patted down or subjected to a full body scan is a special affront to Muslim women. This is total bullshit, of course except that I have noticed that many fully covered Muslim women seem overweight at an early age. That would explain some of the sense of affront; women are women, after all. Eighty-year old celibate Catholic nuns probably don’t think it’s cool, to show their bodies either. (I am just guessing.) There is an easy and cheap solution that calls their dangerous bluff: Recruit a small cadre of heavily scrutinized Muslim female TSA agents to watch traditional, tribal, Muslim women’s bodies on the scanner and to pat them down under the chador or burka. If Muslim organizations reject this solution, they will be demonstrating their complicity with violent jihadism.
For reasons pertaining to some primitive beliefs associated with Islam, most observant Muslim women go to the baths once a month. There, they spend hours naked in the company of many other naked Muslim women. Vigorous exploration of pious, observant Muslim women by other Muslim women would also have the advantage of detecting any illicit weaponry hidden under the chador or burka including but not limited to guns and explosives. (If you know what I mean.) Given the extreme prudery of fanatical Muslims, the practice might even deter reliance on this particular form of concealment by male terrorists. Incidentally, I think we use far too little for our protection the cultural weapons available against fanatics.
The problems of security confronting us have mostly common sense solutions. Unfortunately, we have reached the point in America where applying common sense takes uncommon courage. We began manning up in the last election. I trust this collective recovery will continue. We must get rid of left-wing Democrats because they are extremely dangerous both for what they do and because of what they don’t do. Don’t the recent cowardly TSA “airport security” measures show this with blinding clarity?