Life Has Risks We Must Live With

Posted: December 29, 2009 in Current Events, Politics
Tags: , , ,

The big story (which you all know unless you had too much of the holiday egg nog) from over the holidays was the attempted terrorist attack on Flight 253 to Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.  While obviously this guy deserves whatever he gets, I do hope that whatever other action we take in response to this is the result of sound investigation of the facts and an analysis of the cost and benefits of the proposed actions and not as a result of knee jerk reactions and attempts to appease talking heads in the media and politicians looking to score points.

While it is important to look at this incident to determine what can be improved upon security-wise, it is important to also note that the would-be terrorist was only successful in burning the heck out of his own legs.  As far as I know, only one passenger was injured in his attempts to put out the fire and certainly no one was killed.  That’s not to say that nothing should be done, but we do need to keep things in perspective and not go overboard.  But I can already imagine that we are going to have constant demands of the Obama administration that drastic action is needed.  And of course, there must be Senate hearings.  Senate hearings always fix everything.  If, by “fix everything”, you mean create boring content for C-Span 2.

What is funny is that we will see all this demand for action for something that almost happened, but didn’t.  Yet we will see over 40,000 actual deaths on the nation’s highways.  We will see over 14,000 actual deaths from homicides.  Actual deaths, not theoretical ones.   But you will not see a single call for action, no hearings, no nothing.  Why?  It seems that we as society has accepted that there is some level of risk associated with getting into our cars or just living our day-to-day lives.  But for some reason, when it comes to terrorism, there seems to be an expectation that our risks can be reduced to absolute 0%.

We could reduce the speed limit to 10 mph and strictly enforce that limit.  That would certainly reduce highway deaths.  But we know this would come at great cost to our economy and our quality of life, so we do not think that the cost is worth the benefit.  The same mentality should be used when dealing with terrorism.  We could put an air marshall on every plane.  But would the benefit be worth the cost?  We also have to accept that if you have a lone terrorist who is just determined to make an attack, there is probably not much that can be done about it.  It’s hard to gather intelligence about a plan that is simply inside one guy’s head.  We should be very careful about sacrificing freedom in an attempt to achieve a level of security that can simply not be achieved.  Life has risks.

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