Today, January 5th 2010, President Obama gave a brief determined-sounding speech on national security. He used the word “terrorism” without faltering. The President’s tone was very good, good enough to skirt real radical proposals. Basically, President Obama announced with admirable virility that he was securing the barn door after the horses had escaped.
Let’s dream a little: What would happen if you forbade entry to our territory to all citizens of a long list of predominantly Muslim countries and to anyone traveling from the same countries? There could be a handful of exceptions for diplomats and pre-screened government officials.
It would not be presented as a hurtful, hostile act but as a health measure: You, Yemen, you Pakistan, you Somalia have an unusual concentration of cases of Islamist plague; regretfully, we have to quarantine you for the time being. We will lift the quarantine when you show us you have controlled the epidemic on your territory. (The presumption of innocence applies to legal proceedings only where the ability to punish severely is at stake. I don’t need to establish legally valid proof to close my door to my ugly neighbor.)
A temporary oil embargo might be the response. It’s unlikely and it would be a blessing in disguise. An embargo would give us a better reason to decrease our oil dependency than the dubious, far-off menace of global warming.
My guess is that the countries thus targeted would start hustling to take care of our security. Simply asking them to do better screening at their airports, as the Obama administration has done recently, is largely an empty gesture. I wonder how much satisfaction we would give to Italy if that country asked us politely to do a better job of stopping American mafiosi in our airports? I am not referring only to willingness; capability also matters. Remember that our expensive, massive, elaborate, intrusive Homeland Security apparatus failed completely on Christmas Day 2009.
Speaking of which, any administration reasonably in touch with public sentiment would let Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano go. To save her face and as a consolation prize, the President could appoint her Ambassador to Somalia, for example.
A favorite defense theory of Liberals and, by implication, much of their world view, is about to be tested in the matter of the Nigerian panty-bomber. The administration is giving him full civil and judicial rights, including providing legal counsel. The administration is betting that it will be able to trade putting the death penalty off the table for information about Al Quaida in Yemen. I wish them well but I am skeptical.
By the way, punishing the young, expendable Nigerian moron is not high on my list. First, the manipulators who sent him don’t care at all about his fate. As I have said, the supply of would-be martyrs is not infinite but Al Quaida can probably find a dozen troubled, mindless young men and women each year to sacrifice them to its blood lust. Second, the hapless terrorist will be punished enough by spending the balance of his life known as the “panty-bomber.” It’s the worst thing for his Muslim sensitivity. We should make large posters of him with his panty-bomber title in Arabic and in several south-Asian languages, and show them on American television. The specialized ads could be shown if connection with old episodes of Bayview, captured by satellite tv all-over the Muslim world,
I hope someone in the panty-bomber’s interrogation team will have at least the good idea to show him water-boarding apparatus with the information that it helped tough guy Khalid Sheik Mohamed sing like a canary. (I wonder if it’s illegal just to show him!)
UPDATE: Yesterday, January 7th , the President gave his second anti-terrorist speech in three days, except that he did not pronounce the “t” word, of course (not polite!) His jaw was set in a determined expression. Like the first time, he said next to nothing. He was followed by Secretary Janet Napolitano who said absolutely nothing. Her head won’t roll. No one else’s head will roll. Even symbolic gestures of toughness are too much for this president.
President Obama did try to strike a historical chord by stating, “The buck stops here.” The statement means absolutely nothing coming from his mouth, of course. It was immortalized by President Truman. Truman nuked the Japanese because they would not surrender.