Paul on Wizbang:
We really need to decided how many deaths is enough. So we let terrorists kill 100 per year? 200? We want an open society and at least some of us don’t want to do anything to stop terrorism, so at some point we have to decided how many suicide bombers we accept. No, I’m not being facetious.
We accept (inventing a number) 100,000 deaths per year by automobile because the good outweighs the bad. How many suicide bombers per year is below our collective threshold of pain? Or more accurately; how many suicide bombers do we accept before the cure hurts less than the disease?
It is a question that ain’t going away.
The actual number of automobile accident deaths is around 42,000 per year, but the point stands. No one is calling for the elimination of vehicles despite the carnage. 42,000 translates to 115 per day. And almost no one except for the friends and family of the deceased even notices.
The difference here, of course, is the word “accident”. With very few exceptions, automobile fatalities in America are unintentional. Sure, many could have (and should have) been prevented by more attentive drivers, better training or maintenance, or better judgement after consuming alcohol. But virtually no one means to kill or injure anyone, even when their actions or inactions directly do so.
The enemy we fight today means to kill, and they are very serious. Despite our best efforts, they are going to succeed a fair amount of the time.
So the question is: How many deaths are acceptable?
To some, apparently 3,000 are acceptable as long as they don’t have to wait too long to board their aircraft. If 4,000 had been killed on 9/11, maybe, all this no-fly watchlist nonsense might be necessary, but apparently the good of quick boarding at Gate 24 outweighs the death of 3,000 other people.
So what’s the number? Given that automobile accidents are, in fact, accidents, should the number of acceptable terrorist-related deaths in America be double that number? Triple? We need to set a baseline and so that we know when to react. So that we know when to enforce watch lists. So that we know when its okay to search peoples’ bags, investigate their library reading records if warranted, and discriminate by race if circumstances dictate.
I know you think I’m kidding. And, in a way, I am. But I’m also a realist and I recognize that we wouldn’t be waging preemptive war and renewing the PATRIOT act if the reality was potentially a dozen deaths per year. But I don’t know what the appropriate level is.
Much has been made about the toughness of the British people, and I pointed out the storms Londoners have weathered in the past myself after the 7/7 bombings. But it bears remembering that while the citizens of London were hunkered down in bunkers and subway stations (ironically, the very places threatened today) the government was doing its best to protect them and to strike back against the attackers. Because the Blitz was beyond the acceptable limit.
So what’s the limit? I think we’re well past it, but it seems that many disagree.