Losing The Home Front

As Homeland Security cracks down on supposed terrorist-laden (pun intended) flights, I wonder: are we afraid, and if so, isn’t that what those daring al-Qaeda pilots had wished? We’re not going to let them win, are we? The goal of terrorism is to create fear. And it seems that we are quite afraid. Of course, if the leads that forced an American fighter jet escort of British Airways Flight 223 to Dulles International Airport in Washington were concrete, then there is no objection. If there is a terrorist threat, I hope that Homeland Security can neutralize it, and I certainly agree with the bureau’s proactive anti-terrorist principle. Nobody wants another September 11. However, there is a point somewhere between the fighter jet escorts and the fingerprinting of all international travelers at which the word “excessive” comes to mind. These actions exemplify America’s greatest international problem: we claim to strive to save the world by ridding it of terrorists, yet we often find ourselves keeping them away from our soil rather than eradicating them from all soils. Except for a few low-level perpetrators and the occasional aid, we have so far been unsuccessful in capturing terrorists with the ability to attack the United States. We have not caught bin Laden, nor is he dead – as is obvious by the recent release of a video tape in which he refers to the capture of Saddam. And, as much as the Coalition would have you believe, Hussein was no terrorist. He was a horrible and violent dictator, but he probably posed no immediate threat to the United States. So, as we progress into the future of our war on terrorism and strive to define our international role, the United States must decide if we are protectors of our own soil or protectors of humanity. We have tried to be both. However, the disparity between our government’s reactions to September 11 (which took about 3,000 American lives) and its reaction to the recent earthquake (which killed approximately 30,000 Iranians) shows our explicit, though understandable, amalgam of priorities: like most nations, we put ourselves first—or do we? While we rally under the flag of patriotism for self-preservation and defense, we also invade Iraq under the banner of “freedom for all.” Okay, America, which will it be? I am asking an impossible question. No prominent nation can pick between home and abroad; it would be too tough a line to draw considering that our businesses stretch across the lands of the world and our medicine is used everywhere from Boston to Beijing. Clearly, every nation puts itself first. Yet, when faced with adversities that are relevant on the international level, all nations must act internationally and with the rest of the world. I have long been a supporter of Operation: Iraqi Freedom, and that hasn’t changed, but the United States must be cautious to combat terrorism abroad out of concern for national security. We should not risk being wrong about the abilities and motives of someone or some group to attack our nation, as it seems we have been with Saddam. It is upsetting that our borders are now becoming tighter and tighter, for we are essentially locking ourselves in rather than spreading out and attacking the problem. We are succeeding in Iraq, and we are succeeding in Afghanistan. But, we as Americans cannot use patriotism or irrational fears of terrorism as justification for handling problems abroad and risk hindering the freedoms we so dearly protect, like airplane travel into the States.