People are truly good at heart? Sadly, no
ELEVEN YEARS AGO, al-Qaeda terrorist Richard Reid tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 with a bomb hidden in his shoes. As a result, air travelers to this day must remove their shoes to pass through security at US airports.
In 2006, terrorists plotted to destroy as many as 10 planes flying from London to North America using peroxide-based liquid explosives smuggled in their carry-on luggage. So passengers now must limit any liquids they carry through security checkpoints to minuscule containers sealed in clear plastic bags.
On Christmas Day in 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit by means of an explosive device sewn into his underwear. The government’s response: full-body X-ray scans to detect even contraband concealed in one’s groin.
Our irritating, inconvenient airport security rules are one reflection of a common view that the way to prevent evil in this world — in this case, the evil of jihadist terrorism — is to intercept the instruments evildoers use. Thus, if the 9/11 hijackers used box cutters to carry out their airborne atrocities, box cutters must be barred from subsequent flights. If other terrorists find other means of committing brutal acts, we bar those means as well.
This fixation on stopping bad things — as opposed to stopping bad people or bad behavior — goes beyond keeping air travel safe from al-Qaeda. On the international stage, it shows up in campaigns to reduce strategic arsenals and destroy nuclear warheads, regardless of the moral caliber of the governments possessing them. In schools, zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policies have been applied so rigidly, USA Today observes, that “kids have been kicked out of school for possession of Midol, Tylenol, Alka Seltzer, cough drops, and Scope mouthwash.”