If invasive body searches of all airline passengers really made us safer and helped us win the relentlessly escalating war the Islamists are waging against us, it would be our duty to quit whining and accept those searches like patriots — with grace and good humor. That’s how everyone I knew in the 1940s felt about wartime restrictions like blackouts and air-raid drills. Good-natured griping aside, we accepted them without resentment, because we believed they made America safer, and helped us win the war. Believing that, we cooperated to a fare-thee-well, making compliance near universal, policing ourselves, mostly, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, family by family, all over America. In doing this, we felt we were adding our small but necessary bit to the war effort, actively partnering with our government to win the war and bring our boys home.
Seeing long lines of barefoot American travelers being mechanically strip-searched or manually groped gives me a very different feeling. They don’t look like active, patriotic citizens partnering with anybody. They look like pieces of freight, being handled by government agents who dehumanize them by treating them like packages to be inspected for what they carry, not people to be judged friend or foe by their words and deeds. That doesn’t make me feel safe. It makes me fear we are losing the war, here, as in too many other arenas, by letting our enemies trick us into defeating ourselves.
On the 69th anniversary of America’s entry into World War II, we should recall that we won that war thanks, in major part, to the courage, grit, and wit of the men and women in our armed services. But we should also recall that we couldn’t have done it without the wholehearted support of the overwhelming majority of the American people. Today, we have men and women in our armed services who are as capable and courageous as any in our history, but we have nothing like the popular support for the war effort that we had in World War II, and no wonder. In the 1940s, we had FDR and Truman doing their damnedest to cheer us on to victory. Today, we have a president who will not consistently admit that America is at war, let alone name our enemy. At most, he will allow that violent jihadis are at war with us, when in fact, all Islamists are. That’s what an Islamist is: someone who is working to bring down our government and replace it with sharia law. Some Islamists do this overtly, staging violent attacks on us and on our allies, in the sky and on the ground; others work covertly, infiltrating and subverting our institutions.
All have the same aim, but Islamists in the subversion business know that the blindness of the Obama administration is not their only big advantage. Their other major weapon is a wildly exaggerated political correctness that leaves too many of us with a conviction that discrimination is always a bad thing. That’s the thinking behind the knee-jerk negative reaction a dwindling but still significant number of Americans have to the idea of profiling. Many suffer, too, from the same gross overgeneralization in reverse: the idea that treating all people equally is always a good thing, even when it means dehumanizing everybody.
To reconnect American citizens to the fight we are in, we must go back to treating them like people, and the only safe way to do that in our airports is to profile everybody. Of course, we must pay heightened attention to people who come from and/or are traveling to Muslim lands. And, of course, not all Muslims are Islamists, but because all Islamists are Muslims, we need to profile every Muslim passenger, and every traveler to and from Muslim lands. Islamist organizations will protest vociferously, but the many Muslims who want to win the war against the Islamists as much as we do won’t mind. They are eager to distinguish themselves from our mutual enemies and are disheartened when we refuse to do so; they would cooperate gladly, given the chance.