Often I make some explanatory or background comment about my own article in each new issue of the Atlantic. But I don't like to say much about other articles, because on the merits I'd end up saying: Hey, read them all, they're all great! Usually, and especially in this issue, they are.
For special reasons I want to mention three current items by my colleagues.
1) Jeffrey Goldberg's hilarious-but-serious takedown of the TSA. The wasteful spectacle of "security theater" has been on my mind for a long time, as the folly of this system was evident from pretty near the start. Very soon after 9/11, the only two airline-security measures that really matter -- fortified cockpit doors, and the vigilance of a flying public that now knows what a hijacking can mean -- were in place. Since then we've erected an edifice that imposes a huge indirect cost on the traveling public while (as Jeff points out in the article) doing very little to discourage serious terrorist threats. Two years ago in the Atlantic, I quoted John Mueller, author of Overblown, to similar effect:
The widely held view among security experts is that this airport spending is largely for show. Strengthened cockpit doors and a flying public that knows what happened on 9/11 mean that commercial airliners are highly unlikely to be used again as targeted flying bombs. "The inspection process is mostly security theater, to make people feel safe about flying," says John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State and the author of a forthcoming book about the security-industrial complex.
But there seems to be a ratchet effect in "security theater" projects. Once a "safeguard" is adopted, no one dares propose taking it down. Here in Beijing, X-ray screening for all handbags, briefcases, and other parcels taken onto the subway was introduced as a special Olympic-security measure last July. The games are gone, but the screeners (and the long lines of people waiting in front of them) are still there. If logic and evidence had any power to change a system, Jeff Goldberg's article would have some effect.