Overreacting to terrorist attacks plays into al-Qaeda's hands. It also provokes responses that are likely to be large-scale, expensive, ineffective and possibly counterproductive. More screening for every passenger makes no sense. When searching for needles in haystacks, adding hay doesn't help. What's needed is a larger, more robust watch list that is instantly available to all relevant government agencies. Almost 2 million people travel on planes in the United States every day. We need to isolate the tiny percentage of suspicious characters and search them, not cause needless fear in everyone else.Honestly, that's the best argument I've read in some time against the notion of "enhanced interrogation." Would you turn in your own son to stop a terror attack if you knew he would be waterboarded, sleep deprived, and basically tortured and kept in Gitmo or a CIA black site forever? How many terror plots or valuable pieces of intel could have been gained if, as Zakaria says, more fathers, uncles, friends and colleagues trusted the Bush administration to follow through with observing human rights?
As for the calls to treat the would-be bomber as an enemy combatant, torture him and toss him into Guantanamo, God knows he deserves it. But keep in mind that the crucial intelligence we received was from the boy's father. If that father had believed that the United States was a rogue superpower that would torture and abuse his child without any sense of decency, would he have turned him in? To keep this country safe, we need many more fathers, uncles, friends and colleagues to have enough trust in America that they, too, would turn in the terrorist next door.
We may never know. But the fact that Obama is not Bush may have played a factor in the elder Abdul Mutallab's decision to inform American officials about his son.
That is worth thinking about tonight.