Real Homeland Defense

April 7, 2002

by John K. Bates

The conflict in Israel continues to worsen by the day. The Easter and Passover seasons, which are supposed to represent among other things new life and peace, have turned into a time of unparalleled bloodshed, with the “Passover Massacre” death toll now standing at 25. There seems to be no way out of this quagmire other than more war or, as a wise commentator has recently recommended, letting the parties fight until they are too exhausted to fight anymore.

The ongoing battles - and especially the waves of suicide bombers that seem to be proving successful in achieving Palestinian aims - raise disturbing questions. What would happen if similar campaign were launched in America? Is such a nightmare scenario possible? And if is did happen, how would we react?

Many Americans scoff at the notion that such a sustained terror campaign is possible on our soil. America is not, after all, the Middle East. We have a tradition of democracy that simply does not exist in the dictator-led lands of the Middle East. This nation was founded on the principle of freedom; most Arab and Persian countries were founded on the precepts of individual rule by superior men. America has a long and growing history of getting along. Despite some notable blemishes, Americans in the past and especially today are far more tolerant of others than the ethnic and religious haters who blow themselves up in order to kill those they do not agree with. Our tradition - spotted as it has sometimes been - is still the standard for civilized peoples everywhere.

Yet recent events have to allow that the possibility of a suicide campaign is at least possible. Clearly, September 11 was a suicide attack; even if feared (and government predicted) follow-up attacks have never materialized, it still shows the willingness of some to blow themselves up to kill others. Moreover, the West’s (and especially the Bush administration’s) equivocation towards Israel has exacerbated the terrorism in Palestine. Rather than standing by Israel and giving her the same right to self-defense we have claimed while bombing Afghanistan, we have told Israel they must negotiate towards “peace.” This has done nothing to stop the bombers, and in fact emboldened them by suggesting that so long as they continue to blow up civilians, they can count on increased pressure on Israel to succumb. Terrorists know that the more noise they make, the louder the calls from America and Europe for Israel to negotiate.

But the greater reason to believe in a “suicide scenario” is, like so many of life’s possibilities, in the confluence of several smaller events and trends in America. One of these is America’s “homeland defense,” which so far has done little except convince people that the government is “protecting us” and that they are therefore “safe.” Meanwhile, the American government and the media have spent years telling people that gun ownership is not a right and in fact should be relegated to “sporting uses” only. And there is the political correctness movement, which among other insanities declares that no one should be subject to scrutiny based upon their race or national origin. Hence, airplane screeners pat down little old ladies in wheelchairs while young Middle Eastern males walk right on. (Not that it matters; the chances of someone hijacking a plane today is exactly zero, a point this writer has made more than once. But I digress.)

How are these trends related, and how would they affect us if some group or nation decided the best way to destabilize America would be to blow themselves up in public places, taking out as many citizens as possible? Americans would in such a situation look first to government, because the government and the media have been so effective at telling us that they (and only they) can take care of us in a time of crisis. This is the grand and cumulative effect of everything from the war on terror to FEMA’s never-ending declarations of disaster to politicians claiming that our desire to keep more of our money will result in economic ruin. After 70 years of this doctrine being forced down the throat of every American from cradle to grave, most Americans believe at least part of it. Even supposed conservatives such as George W. Bush believe it. Ours is no longer a nation of individuals taking care of themselves. We are now a nation of government-addled dependents.

Not that we would have much of a chance to defend ourselves. The right to carry weapons (especially concealed weapons, which would be very useful on a bus against a man with a bomb) has been taken away from many Americans. If terror were to strike, people would have no choice but to rely on government, and here is where political correctness enters into the picture, and where the battle could well be lost. In order to effectively stop terror in an age where every word and action is scrutinized to see if it offends anyone, government will find that it either has to impose totalitarian security measures against everyone or decide to impose no measures at all. Random-yet-logical stops and monitoring of people of Middle Eastern descent is not allowed by the paragons of political correctness. Chances are the people would not accept totalitarian rule (probably), so therefore nothing would be done. Citizens - blocked from defending themselves by a government that hates private ownership of guns on one hand and seeing the same government hamstrung by the stupidity of the PC crowd on the other - may start to lose confidence in their government and their society. If this happens, the nation may slide much closer to the daily fear, violence, and near-anarchy now engulfing Israel. It is here that the terrorists may finally win, or at least do enough damage to America to get some of what they want.

It may seem as if this writer is advocating more government security measures, or that he believes that the nation is in grave immediate danger. Neither is true; either would severely contradict earlier postings in this space. But the three trends mentioned above are all in their way threats to our security, and there is no better way to increase the security of the average American than to reverse these trends. It is hard to think of no better defense against terrorism, for example, than the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This is especially true in a circumstance where the enemy is directly among us. Soldiers could never protect the American people from a sustained suicide terror threat. An armed populace would have a much better chance of doing so.

It is furthermore the height of stupidity to say that despite the fact that the vast majority of terrorists in the world (and in fact all 19 of the September 11 hijackers) are from the Middle East that we will deliberately not target people of Middle Eastern descent for extra scrutiny. The political correctness movement goes further and declares that since most people may view Arabs and Persians as a threat, we must deliberately not scrutinize them because it might offend some of them. The desire to “not offend” is at the heart of this nonsense, and destroying this concept would be another great boon to our security. If half as much energy was put into enforcing the very real right to own guns as is put into enforcing a non-existent “right to not be offended,” the country would be nearly 100% safe from the threat of terror.

The best thing our nation could do to protect itself, however, would be to end the very “homeland security” effort that is supposedly protecting us. By lulling Americans into a belief that the government (and only the government) can protect them, the homeland security effort in fact makes the nation much more vulnerable. Anyone who flies (and thinks for more than 3 seconds) understands this; 90% of so-called airport “security” measures exist simply to make people feel safe. They do nothing to actually make people safer. This is a dangerous carryover from the Clinton years, where appearance meant much more than substance. Just as many of Clinton’s feel-good actions did more harm than good, our “homeland defense” will create more risk than it will eliminate. By making us all “feel” safer, the government allows us to be more comfortable with increased risk. By removing our ability to quantify and qualify risk among certain groups of people, the government puts increases risk from people who are truly bad. And by taking guns from us and fostering the notion that only agents of the government are capable and qualified to arm themselves, the government increases risk by not allowing us to defend ourselves.

Risk can never be completely eliminated. But any solution to a sustained suicide bombing campaign should mitigate that risk as much as possible. The answer to true homeland security is not found in the corridors of power in Washington. It is not found in silly, arbitrary searches of innocent people. It is certainly not found in Republican or Democratic policies. Security can only be found in allowing people to be free and by telling them that their freedom demands that they be prepared to defend it. Most Americans can take care of themselves and their neighbors far better than any government policeman, bureaucrat, or politician. It’s time for the people to be freed and trusted to take care of themselves.


John K. Bates is a part-time freelance writer who works in the energy engineering field and lives in the Denver, Colorado area. He enjoys many outdoor pursuits and the company of his family of three cats. His columns can also be seen on

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For more of John's articles, visit his archives.

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