Yesterday I offered some thoughts (Ennui and Revisionism: Europe’s Take on American Security) on a Washington Post opinion piece by German writer/editor Josef Joffe that criticized American steps to secure its borders. Today, National Journal writer and blogger Shane Harris does likewise. Like Harris, I don’t disagree with Joffe that America has some damage-control to do and we the citizens need to be vigilant about protecting our civil liberties. However, also like Harris, I think that Joffe diagnosed the wrong symptoms. Harris has a good piece. An excerpt is below.
Perhaps we are indeed paying a “fear tax,” as Joffe suggests, for our post-9/11 protectionism. But in his attempt to diagnose our condition, Joffe has identified the wrong symptoms.
Increased airport security and scrutiny of foreign visitors are not the primary causes of America’s global image problem. The excesses of Abu Ghraib, the existence of the Guantanamo prison (which all the presidential candidates say they want to shutter) and our controversial and passionately debated interrogation practices have done more to diminish our global standing than some gruff Customs officials or aggressive airport security personnel. Whether you think our foreign policies have been rational and just or extreme and paranoid, no one can deny that they’ve precipitated a hefty blowback, most notably in the foreign press, but even at the official level among our allies.
When it comes to our domestic security, the idea that the U.S. government is tossing money at the Homeland Security Department will surprise a lot of department watchers. Indeed, a more common criticism is that not enough resources are devoted to one of the biggest departments in the federal government.