If the TSA Were Running New YorkI would have thought that Barack Obama would have fixed the idiocy of "security theatre" but he hasn't. I guess the "political costs" of doing something rational in American politics is so bad that no politician will take the risk.
How would it respond to this weekend's Times Square bomb threat? Well, by extrapolation from its response to the 9/11 attacks and subsequent threats, the policy would be:
- All vans or SUVs headed into Midtown Manhattan would have to stop and have their contents inspected. If any vehicle seemed for any reason to have escaped inspection, Midtown in its entirety would be evacuated;
- A whole new uniformed force -- the Times Square Security Administration, or TsSA - would be formed for this purpose;
- The restrictions would never be lifted and the TsSA would have permanent life, because the political incentives here work only one way. A politician who supports more open-ended, more thorough, more intrusive, more expensive inspections can never be proven "wrong." The absence of attacks shows that his measures have "worked"; and a new attack shows that inspections must go further still. A politician who wants to limit the inspections can never be proven "right." An absence of attacks means that nothing has gone wrong -- yet. Any future attack would always and forever be that politician's "fault." Given that asymmetry of risks, what public figure will ever be able to talk about paring back the TSA?
The point of terrorism is not to "destroy." It is to terrify. And for eight and a half years now, the dominant federal government response to terrorist threats and attacks has been to magnify their harm by increasing a mood of fear and intimidation. That is the real case against the ludicrous "orange threat level" announcements we hear every three minutes at the airport. It's not just that they're pointless, uninformative, and insulting to our collective intelligence; it's that their larger effect is to make people feel frightened rather than brave.
Remember how early in his campaign Obama would not wear an American flag pin and other times wouldn't utter the shibboleth of "God Bless America". He was beaten up badly for these action. So he now kotows to the mindless mumbo-jumbo of American politics. He learned a lesson. Americans don't want honesty in politicians. They want comfort and lies. They don't want security, they want security theatre.