How Far Should Societies Go to Prevent Terror Attacks? – The Atlantic

Really, it’s best to just go read the whole thing.

Source: How Far Should Societies Go to Prevent Terror Attacks? – The Atlantic, by Conor Friedersdorf

Almost everyone is unwilling to do certain things to eliminate terrorism. And that is fortunate, for the endurance of a free society depends upon it.

The problem with [absolutist] arguments is the implication that disagreements about what policies to pursue are rooted in some people caring enough to stop children from dying horribly, and others not so much. In fact, there are deep disagreements about the likely effects of many policies. And while the willingness to adopt some policies even though dead children will result is real, it is also universal; if you favor allowing cars to drive faster than 25 miles per hour, or allowing kids to ride in them, then you are willing to say that a certain amount of deaths are the price we pay to live as we want.

To put it so bluntly is politically incorrect. But to hold the contrary position, that we will pay any price to end terrorism, is morally monstrous and incompatible with the Constitution.

No free society could survive the latter posture.

For many Americans, myself included, the Iraq War was not a counterterrorism success. It was a conflict that killed many more Americans than died on September 11, 2001; and the instability that it spawned was a major root cause of the rise of ISIS. The bipartisan consensus against more ground invasions in the Middle East is not rooted in an unwillingness to make the necessary sacrifices to reduce terrorism; it reflects a belief that the Iraq War seems to have increased rather than reduced global terrorism.

Is it even the case that the occupation of Afghanistan made Americans safer? … One also wonders how many people were radicalized into terrorism as a result of U.S. abuses in Iraq, like the ones at the Abu Ghraib prison, or by innocents killed by drones.

To be moved by an argument of the sort that [David French] offers is to be manipulated into eliding questions of efficacy and values by the specter of dead children. Don’t be led astray.

Source: How Far Should Societies Go to Prevent Terror Attacks? – The Atlantic, by Conor Friedersdorf


A Republic demands courage — not foolhardy and unsustainable “principle at all costs,” but reasoned courage — from its citizens. The American response should be to find some other solution to this problem if the casualty rate is unacceptable. To demand that the government “keep us safe” by doing things out of our sight that we have refused to do in much more serious situations so that we can avoid such a risk is weak and pathetic. It is the demand of spoiled children, or the cosseted residents of the imperial city.

Source: Against Waterboarding | National Review, by Jim Manzi