2013-06-12 – In the wake of revelations about NSA data mining, I think it is worth thinking about alternatives to data mining. I the wake of revelations about drone strikes, I think it is worth thinking about alternatives to drone strikes. In the wake of massively intrusive screening of air travelers by the TSA, I think it is worth thinking about alternatives to TSA screening.
The common thread connecting these three massive and worrisome violations of our civil rights is that they are all examples of discriminate violence. In each case some screening method is used to select individuals for rough treatment or even death.
The alternative to discriminate violence, of course, is indiscriminate violence. In prior wars whole groups of people were rounded up and imprisoned or killed. If we followed that route in the so-called global war on terror, our Arab neighbors would be rounded up and put in camps, as the Japanese were in World War II. It would not matter how loyal they were.
With discriminate violence, the particulars of the individual do matter—though the process for discovering relevant facts is odious.
I’m not saying this all is beautiful. Most of it is bogus and gives us a false sense of security. Most of it, but not all of it. It is for that reason that we need to be vigilant. But it amazes me how much is said about NSA data mining, when private corporations do it all the time—often for reasons that are far less benevolent than protecting us from terrorism. On the other hand, we put up with hours in the airport being searched for little real gain.
The heart of the problem here is not the surveillance (though that is a problem that needs to be dealt with). It is an awful war that seems to lack a thought or strategy for ending it. A grade D marketing department at Podunk, Inc. has a better idea about how to influence people’s behavior. That, after all, is the purpose of war. What is it that we are trying to accomplish?
If we could answer that, the problem of discriminate violence could be answered as well.