Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows already that here, in this space, America of the past thirty years is not like or admired. "Cowardly" is hardly the only bad thing about us these days. But the way (and the extent to which) we create wars and proclaim ever-greater need for "homeland security" is, indeed, sickening in its cowardice.
We have suffered several thousand casualties from 9/11 through today. Suppose we had a 9/11-level attack with 3,000 casualties per year every year. Each person reading this would face a probability of death from this source of about 0.001% each year. A Republic demands courage -- not foolhardy and unsustainable "principle at all costs," but reasoned courage -- from its citizens .... To demand that the government "keep us safe" by doing things out of our sight that we have refused to do in much more serious situations so that we can avoid such a risk is weak and pathetic. It is the demand of spoiled children, or the cosseted residents of the imperial city. In the actual situation we face, to demand that our government waterboard detainees in dark cells is cowardice. ...NationalReview
I feel similarly about the parts of the drone war being conducted outside of the war zone in Afghanistan. Obama's targeted killings, as currently practiced, may well inspire more terrorist attacks than they prevent. They may well weaken the rule of law in a way that hurts Americans more than it helps us. ...Friedersdorf, TheAtlantic
And, a little further on...
There were almost 10,000 drunk-driving fatalities in 2011 alone. That's the equivalent of three 9/11s in people killed, plus many more seriously injured, every year. Is a majority of Americans ready to lower the blood alcohol limit to 0.01 and to mandate breathalyzers on all ignition switches? Nope. That would be an onerous government intrusion on liberty. I'm fine with that. But it vexes me when the same citizenry faces the significantly lower risk that terrorists pose, spends far more on prevention, and still insists that targeted killings in Yemen and Somalia can't be constrained, because taking more care to save innocents would threaten us.
Many Americans willingly take bigger risks to scuba dive, ride a motorcycle, or eat junk food than they are willing to take to spare the lives of far away kids. As my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates put it, writing on a related subject, "Our problem is we think we're better than we actually are. We've gotten so good at telling ourselves this." ...Friedersdorf, TheAtlantic
In truth, I think our narcissism is so intense, so deep, that we reserve the right to kill ourselves through self-indulgence. But any risk of being retaliated against by others harmed by America's policies is seen as "not fair." Maybe most revolting of all is that self-satisfied faith that, no matter what we do, "Jesus will save us."
Update: Conor Friedersdorf has hit another one out of the park. Finally... discussions we should have had before Iraq, before the Gulf War, before Vietnam, before...