refers us to a Michael Kelly piece in today’s WaPo online, in which Kelly stakes out the pragmatic high ground of the civil liberties vs. increased security debate.
The proper response to [complaints about security measures violating civil liberties] is: Yes, it is true, this action will indeed hurt or at least insult some innocent people, and we are sorry about that. And this action does represent an infringement of the rights and liberties enjoyed not just by Americans but by visitors to America, and we are sorry about that, too. But we must do everything we can to curtail the ability of the enemy to attack us. This is necessary.
Readers here know that VP is as hawkish as they come. But Kelly frightens me a bit. Read him and report back.
Read and reporting as ordered, sir.
I think I know what the problem is here, and why VP is troubled by Kelly, despite being a rather pragmatic fellow himself. Kelly’s central point is that in wartime, we may not, as citizens (or even simple residents) of the United States retain the exact same rights and privleges as we have in peacetime, and that this is a rational and necessary response to realize the greater good of defending the safety and survival of our country. To which most normal folks would reply: “Well, duh!.”
But that’s not the troubling part of Kelly’s piece. The troubling part is that he takes aim at those who are raising concerns about the impact new security measures will have on civil liberties; in effect, the tone of his piece suggests that he thinks they should sit down and shut up.
And this is exactly, 100% wrong. It is precisely because we have people such as those Kelly bashes to raise objections to new policies — and have a society and legal framework that ensures the right to such debate — that we can safely consider rational tradeoffs between liberty and security.
Reader MarkD on VP’s comment board points out that “Fingerprinting aliens is not the first step on a slippery slope to the American Secret Police knocking on your door just because you said mean things about the government. There’s a million breaking points where lines can and will be drawn. This is a democracy and the people will never stand for intrusions on that level.” And MarkD is correct. But Kelly doesn’t seem to want any review of these policies; in describing the dialogue (he calls it “ritual”) between civil liberties activists and government officials pressing for further security measures, he asks alound, “Would it be too much to ask that we cut this out?”
Yes, Mr. Kelly, it would. For while I’ll support your position that some restrictions on liberty may — may be necessary, I will absolutely not support the idea that such restrictions should be put in place without any public feedback or review. Many of the concerns raised may not be valid — they may be stupid, foolish, and irrational. But some won’t be. And in the dialogue between cop and civil liberties lawyer; between spy and protester; in that heat of discussion and opinion flowing back and forth, we will find the truth. The policies that are truly necessary and just will stand — and those that aren’t will get shouted down.
That is why we call this a democracy, and why it is worth defending, remember?
PS – Stephen has now exceeded his quota of interesting pieces for the next day or so. No more links for you, VP!