Terrorism in terribly frustrating, as well as dangerous. Anytime there is a lack of law and order it is frustrating and dangerous.
I bring this up in relation to the latest airport bombing in Moscow where 35 people were killed and 185 injured, and then of course in relation as well to all terrorist acts and all break downs of law and order.
The frustrating thing is that terrorists are hard to catch, especially when they kill themselves in the process of committing their terror. Of course someone usually sets them up, but they usually work in secret. Except sometimes they don’t work in total secrecy. What about the imams or whatever they call themselves who fairly openly preach hatred from their mosques? And I am not picking solely on Muslims or factions of Muslims. There are Christian terrorists and terrorists of all kind of creeds.
But anyway, the quite understandable immediate reaction is that we have to go after someone. If you’re George W. Bush you just wildly flail out at any convenient target, Afghanistan/Iraq, and you send whole armies to look for one man, Osama Bin Laden, and when that doesn’t work, he remains elusive, you just say you weren’t really looking for him anyway and change your rationale every few months as to why you have sent in the armies. You end up killing and wounding thousands upon thousands of more people — most of whom who are totally innocent– than were killed in the original terrorist act.
And let’s don’t pick on George W., because if you are Barack Obama you just keep the whole thing going because, well, you don’t want anyone to think you are a coward and truth be known, unpopular war(s) or not, if you pull out the American public would turn against you because now you made all of them feel like cowards.
But I am getting off the subject I wanted to address here in the beginning, that is dealing with terrorist acts and mass breakdowns of law and order, such as in Oakland, Ca. (and other urban areas).
I was listening to Dr. Bill Wattenburg on KGO Radio last night and he was saying that he would not be surprised if the Russians got tough now and went directly after terrorist leaders (and the news says this morning that is what they are vowing to do). Now Wattenburg usually talks about scientific matters and math puzzles and helpful hints around the home and ranch and logging camp and cowboy camp and claims to be an expert on or have taken part in everything from designing freeway interchanges and rapid transit systems to missiles and nuclear weapons — he’ll also tell you how to get a caterpillar tractor unstuck from the mud. But when he ventures into politics he sometimes is a little reactionary, although to his credit he can also often be fairly moderate in his views and seems to try to come down on the side of the sensible.
But he seemed to be rooting for something like the secret police (and I don’t mean he said it directly) going after the bad people, something police states have always done in the name of law and order but also for the purpose of retaining their own political power. And I read up on him and saw that he had in the past called for sending in the military and going house to house in Oakland in reaction to the ghetto crimes and drive-by shootings and so forth. And I’m just using Oakland as an example. All the big cities and even small cities have gang and violence problems.
But anyway, why should law-abiding citizens have to live in fear?
In extreme circumstances, at some point, extreme tactics are called for.
Now in the case of airport bombings, Wattenberg says that experts have looked at it and agree that one of the big problems is baggage. Apparently there is no fool-proof way of checking baggage without opening it all (and then ka-boom?). He said ultimately the only practical way of forestalling a bomber, such as the one in Moscow who apparently brought a bomb in with him to the International Arrivals section of the airport (I imagine from the outside, not from an airplane), would be to ban individuals from taking baggage directly in with them when they go to the airports (and he claims people don’t need nearly the amount of baggage they think they do).
Now we have not had a spate of airport bombings here in the United States as of yet, but if we did extreme measures would have to be taken — the public would eventually demand it. It’s already getting tougher to board an airplane, what with body scans and in some cases mandatory feelups — but the call for all of that actually came from the government, not the people, at least not directly, but the government feels it must show the people it is doing something.
(I don’t fly much, hardly ever. Most of my flying was done in the late 1960s and early 70s when all you had to do is buy a ticket at the counter and get on the plane as simple as if you were getting on the Greyhound bus.)
Although I do not consider myself as politically reactionary as Wattenburg, I have often thought myself, ever since the urban ghetto riots of the 60s and into the gang violence of today, that in some cases martial law should be declared and the wrongdoers rooted out. Easier said than done I realize. But sometimes you feel enough is enough.
(I recall reading something a few years ago about how the police in one town in, Arkansas I believe, tried to cordon off a bad neighborhood and do random searches, but I think that was eventually prohibited by court order.)
And do we really want things to get as out of hand as they are in Mexico?
In the case of terrorism there is always the problem of doing more harm in the name of good than was inflicted in the first place (ala Bush). The Russians have a recent history of storming into hostage situations and killing everyone, good and bad.
I recall that during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of the late 1970s when Americans were held captive by terrorists backed by the Iranian government that many folks here at home were actually suggesting that we bomb the embassy where they were being held.
Somewhere in all of this there has to be a middle ground between impotence, doing basically nothing but maybe feeling up innocent airplane passengers, and ham-handed foolishness, starting major wars or storming into schools Russian style and killing schoolchildren and their parents in the process.
And I do think that in the case of lawlessness in the urban areas, governors should declare martial law and root out the gangs. It would have to be done selectively and carefully and unfortunately probably would require sophistication we do not have at this time. But to surrender whole communities to lawlessness in unacceptable, or should be.