Are We Safer Post-9/11?

Pretty much my thoughts, exactly:

So the legitimate question now is: Have we gone too far? Is the vast expansion in governmental powers and bureaucracies — layered on top of the already enormous military-industrial complex of the Cold War — warranted? Does an organization that has as few as 400 members and waning global appeal require the permanent institutional response we have created?

I’ve been asking these questions for a few years now and described our “massive overreaction” in a 2008 Newsweek essay but with little effect. During the Bush years, there was a reluctance on the left to acknowledge that the administration could have done anything worthwhile to counter terrorism. The far greater problem is on the right, where it has become an article of faith that we are gravely threatened by vast swarms of Islamic terrorists, many within the country.

This campaign to spread a sense of imminent danger has fueled a climate of fear and anger. It has created suspicions about U.S. Muslims — who are more assimilated than in any other country in the world. Ironically, this is precisely the intent of terrorism. Bin Laden knew he could never weaken America directly, even if he blew up a dozen buildings or ships. But he could provoke an overreaction by which America weakened itself.

Most people are fine with having to take off their shoes and go through a machine that lets someone look at your kibbles-n-bits if it’ll decrease the already-slim chances of being the victim of a hijacking. And still others are willing to allow the government to suspend due process and even torture people just to make us “safer.”

To these people, I always ask, “How much freedom are you willing to give up for the illusion of safety?” The government can only take what we, the people, are willing to give them.

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