The Dream Of Invunerability

Megan on the TSA:

Terrorists are bound to get through airport security if they really want, or do something worse, like blow up the crowds of people patiently waiting in line to go through airport security.  Maybe we could do it smarter, like the Israelis do.  But the Israelis also armor the holds of their airliners, making it very difficult to blow them up--and impossible to fly at a profit.

No, what this points out is not that Napolitano is incompetent, but that our elaborate system of security theater is probably next to useless.  I cannot imagine where this is going to end.  No, actually, I can imagine all too well:  with passengers checking all luggage and flying in specially issued hospital gowns.  And when some enterprising terrorist manages to sneak through that cordon by swallowing his explosives, the TSA will tell us that "the system works" and start the cavity searches.

Jeff's two cents:

Why does our government continue to make believe that it can stop terrorists from boarding civilian planes when anyone with half-a-brain and a spare two minutes can think up a dozen ways to bypass the symbolic security measures at our airports?

I think this is what you get when you declare "War on Terror." The logical conclusion of this sort of phrasing is that it's actually within the power of our government, not simply, to protect it's citizens as much as humanely possible, but to "defeat terror." And so when something like this happens, bureaucrats and politicians feel the need to show that they're doing something to "defeat terror."

Jeff and Megan hint at a more sensible approach--that there is no such thing as invulnerability, that we have to acquit ourselves to the possibility that an occasional nutjob will get away with an occasional act. But that ain't enough. In a War on Terror mindset, there's no room for "shit happens."

I should add that highlighting the War on Terror isn't a shot at Bush. I think you can fairly say that, at this point, the idea of a "War on Terror" is as bipartisan as the "War on Drugs."

Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Business

From This Author

Just In