Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Ticking Time Bomb

A new study details the symbiosis between the U.S. government and terrorists:

"This public panic benefits the terrorists whose work is made easier by an overactive government response that magnifies their efforts. In an odd way this puts the government and the terrorists in league with one another," he said. "The main loser, alas, is the terrified public."
Meanwhile, Republicans continue to block legislation that would secure chemical plants, despite the fact that as Amy Smithson of the Center for Security and International Studies says, "One of the hallmarks of al-Qaida is that they will use our infrastructure against us."

This is what James Inhofe (R-OK) sneeringly refers to as the security argument. In the looking-glass world of conservatarianism, wiretapping citizens without oversight is necessary because it might prevent a devastating attack, but enforcing chemical plant security is an intolerable infringement of fundamental American liberties.

As usual, the solutions of Sensible Technocrats tend towards appeasement. For instance, here's Daniel Prieto, director of the Reform Institute's Homeland Security Center in Washington, DC:
Let's say we'd offered $3 billion in breaks to companies so that they made decisions that protected major metropolitan areas from chemical attack. That's not a substantial amount of money, compared to our military budget, but it takes care of a major threat.
True enough (as long as the threat is actually taken care of, instead of getting defined out of existence, or wallpapered over with pseudopatriotic PR boilerplate). The problem is, you shouldn't have to bribe American companies to make decisions that protect major metropolitan areas. Industries shouldn't be rewarded for clinging to shortsighted, antisocial behavior that effectively holds our cities hostage.

Joke about having a chemical weapon while you're in an airport line, and you'll find yourself in jail. Site a chemical plant in a densely populated area, and you can use it to extort "offers" from the taxpayers whose lives you're endangering. Perhaps it's unconscionably brutal of me, but my approach would be "Fix these problems immediately, or we'll revoke your corporate charter, use your assets to secure the facility, and then auction it off to your competitors."

Who could possibly oppose that idea, save for people who want the terrorists to kill us all?


Eli said...

I would have loved to see the Democrats make a huge electoral issue about this, as the centerpiece of a "Republicans are *not* protecting you from terrorists" campaign.

I was hoping Kerry would use it (especially after he hired Rand Beers), but I think he just mentioned it in one debate, and that was it.

Anonymous said...

Relatedly, I've got dozens of relatives living within suitcase-nuke range of Charleston's harbor, and they're no safer now than they were on 9/10/01.

I kind of take that personally.

Phila said...

I kind of take that personally.

Yeah, I know the feeling....

Ripley said...

One of the interesting, to me, and baffling unmentioned subtexts to stories like this is: Why aren't these entities taking the initiative to protect their facilities, without legislative demand?

Is it such a philisophically difficult concept for them to grasp, such a burden, that they couldn't possibly make an effort to ensure that their facilities are secure? Do they not understand that there are US citizens in the area or do they simply not care?

I realize I'm speaking heresy in the marketplace, but come on... Don't these people have a sense of duty and conscience to their neighbors?

Phila said...

I realize I'm speaking heresy in the marketplace, but come on... Don't these people have a sense of duty and conscience to their neighbors?

I'm no mindreader. Some probably do, but honestly feel that the threat isn't realistic enough to justify the effort. A few probably don't much care about anything but the bottom line. And a bunch of others are probably trying hard not to think about it.

You can say the same things about people in general, I think. These are all everyday rationalizations for bad behavior. It's on a bigger scale, obviously, but the basic mechanisms of avoidance and denial seem pretty universal.