Innumerable as the Starrs of Night,
Or Starrs of Morning,
Dew-drops, which the Sun
on every leaf and every flouer
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,
— that is all
Ye know on earth, and all
ye need to know.
E = M
Energy is eternal delight.
Impearls: 2004-04-04 Archive
Canada and the Anti-Terrorist Perimeter of America
Dave Trowbridge posted a piece in Redwood Dragon two months ago called “Costly Grace,” referring to this posting by Jeff Taylor in Reason magazine's Hit and Run blog. (Redwood Dragon seems not to have permalinks for its postings, so the above link points to the archive page for that post.)
Dave and Jeff highlight the recent situation wherein a Maine resident living next to the Canadian border was saddled with a massive fine by U.S. Customs for the sin of driving round a barrier, while the international border crossing was closed, so he could attend church services in Canada. The source news articles the pair point to have apparently expired, but Trowbridge provides a sufficient quote so one can review the case, as he says:
Responding to Trowbridge's allusion to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have made of the situation (I'll be just as speculative as Dave, but there you are), I agree Bonhoeffer could not have liked the prospect of people being punished for exercising their choice to worship where and however they wish. However, as a person with intimate knowledge of and who gave his life fighting the Nazis, surely he would appreciate the steely-eyed moral necessity of not naively letting organized human predators like the Nazis come scourging in through unbarred and unguarded gates. Undoubtedly, a similar sort of naive liberal credulity (that it's “democratic,” for example, rather than stupid for democracies to allow undemocratic, totalitarian parties to participate in the political process, i.e.: “one man, one vote, one time”) unleashed the Nazis to burst into the pinnacles of power in Germany, thence out to ravage through Europe, in the first place.
In the admittedly distressing case of Richard Albert, who's suffering from continuing to regard the international border as it famously used to be: a mostly imaginary line between friends and neighbors — I sympatize with him and others like him. I'm from Montana myself, close by the Canadian province of Alberta, where we always felt (growing up in the northern part of the state) that Montana faced its neighbor Alberta even more closely than it did the nearby American states. Tamara and I even once contemplated acquiring land near fabulous Glacier National Park in Montana, jam up against Canada, of course anticipating untroubled, transparent access to the magnificent Canadian Rockies right across the frontier.Nonetheless, all this started to change, more or less quickly, after a day I need not name a bit over 2½ years ago. As the news piece Dave related makes plain, Richard Albert ”just drove around the locked gate, as he had done every weekend since the gate appeared last May, following a tightening of border security.” Thus, Albert had months of notice — not least of which a new gate barring the way, but even, I'll bet, signs posted at the border — indicating that things were toughening up and the sort of impromptu border transits he'd been accustomed to were now a no-no. Nonetheless, Albert went on anyway, and got socked with a hefty fine. And we're supposed to be terribly sad or upset or even very surprised at his fate?
No, what's sad is the necessity to put in place a real border between Canada and the United States for the first time, really, in nearly 200 years.
That's sad, but necessary.
As Canadian Mark Steyn — who resides in the same American borderland neck of the woods beside the Canadian province of Quebec as Richard Albert does — put it on in a piece in the
As Mark Steyn suggests, after 9−11 Canada faced the choice of either positioning itself inside a North American perimeter or outside a U.S. perimeter. Canada steadfastly refused to cooperate with the United States and form such a common anti-terrorist envelope to include all of North America, even though, as Mark marvels, such is so eminently in both countries' fundamental interest. Just after 9−11, France (or at least Le Monde) was sympathetically willing to proclaim “we are all Americans” — a statement Canada and Canadians could never find it within themselves to entertain. On the contrary, as Steyn points out, in response to America's subsequent attempt to intercept terrorists at the U.S.-Canadian frontier, rather than cooperating even with this, Canada basically declared “we are all Syrians!”
While I appreciate and acknowledge Canada's sacrifices and service in the ongoing war on terror (in Afghanistan, for example), notice that the above not merely tepid but actively negative cooperation by Canada was taken not in some kind of moralistic recoil from last year's Iraq war (which at the time of these events was still half a year off), but in contemptuous response to America's basic desire in the aftermath of 9−11 to defend itself by screening out terrorists before they enter the country.
Democrats and the antiwar left and have raked the Bush administration over the coals for supposedly neglecting “homeland security” — by not, e.g., inspecting every single shipping container arriving in America's ports — instead of, as they see it, embarking on foreign adventures. Yet, according to the tenor of both Dave Trowbridge's and Jeff Taylor's pieces, together with numerous commenters to Jeff's post (for example: “It's silly that our post-9/11 paranoia is interrupting peaceful people's lives in order to stop a terrorist attack that will in all probability never come”), it seems that toughening up security on America's northern frontier is mere bureaucratic folderol. In the continuing cold new light of the 21st century, I'm afraid it all rings in my ears as so “September 10th.” It almost boggles the mind, in fact, recounting statements such as the foregoing, written by supposedly thoughtful, aware people.
As intimated before, September 11, 2001 (Earthdate
To perpetrate such carnage within the United States or any other country, terrorists — typically not natives of the (Western) nation being attacked — must necessarily cross international frontiers to get there. Improving “homeland security” at airports accomplishes nothing if foreign agents can simply stroll across the Canadian (or other) border at any number of unguarded, unwatched crossing points. Don't forget the “Millennium bomber,” Ahmed Ressam, by luck apprehended late in 1999 actually trying to enter Washington state from Canada, carrying a bomb intended for Los Angeles airport.
Meanwhile, the recent defection of Libya from the concerted ‘axis of evil nations’ has vividly demonstrated the existence of that alignment of authoritarian dictators, determined to assist each other in more or less simultaneously breaking out from international WMD control regimes, in order to achieve their destinies of unfettered megalomania. The remaining despots in this far-reaching international conspiracy obviously figure that once they individually or collectively possess nuclear arms, effective restraint and overslight on their activities by the international community, at least within their own neighborhoods, will cease. “Deterrence” will work… for them.
The risk of such evil regimes (I won't pussyfoot over employing accurate terminology) forming alliances with terrorist groups — insofar as they haven't already — is extraordinary. The danger that a “mushroom cloud” (to evoke an image of a possible future rightly brought up, in my view, during the run-up to the Iraq war) might raise up its demonic head at some point in consequence of this worldwide terrorist/despot conspiratorial scramble is not negligible! Arguments that the risk of such an eventually might be “gathering” but isn't yet “imminent” — which is to say, the danger could be as much as, oh, five years off — are not reassuring.
After reviewing the appalling recent historical record of terror, how anyone can predict with a straight face that further attacks “in all probability [will] never come” is beyond me. Unbelievable that anybody could still think that after the experiences of the last few years — as I say, so “September 10th.” It shows that the tendency, and desire, of a portion of the population to nod back into the kind of numbing, 1990s-style cultural somnolence, in midst of this dangerous 21st-century world (war) of ours, is pervasive. Unfortunately for such a yearning for the “normalcy” of the 90s, there are still hordes of people out there who want to kill us — if they can find the means, and get both them and it over here to employ it.
Once unscrupulous murderers such as perpetuaters of recent terrorist events arrive in America, it's indisputable that it's basically impossible to protect all the myriad of vulnerable sites (full of people within and about them) throughout the country. Focus on that: once such killers are in America…. Beyond aggressively defeating foreign enemies in their places of origin and staging areas, a major element in conducting a defense must be keeping such people out of this country in the first place. For this, adequate border security is a necessity, not some kind of bureaucratic foolishness.
Many of Jeff's commenters titter at the present inadequacy of security at border crossings like the one described in the news piece; and yes, clearly security is inadequate. However — rather like the antiwar left's contention that since the U.S. supposedly “supported” Saddam Hussein in the past, therefore any later reversal of policy is somehow both hypocritical and (even more questionably) wrong — the apparent conclusion of Jeff's commenters, that one must therefore (continue to) do nothing, is not viable as a solution. As the quoted news article makes quite plain, security is in the process of being enhanced. Now there's a gate. Now there's a camera watching the crossings, border crossing by border crossing, so experience can be garnered as to who's using the crossings and any suspicious behavior focused in on.
Much more obviously needs to be done. This page, for instance (by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of the border state Michigan, on the subject of U.S.-Canadian border issues), discusses several things of interest in this regard. According to Sen. Stabenow, a number of bills have been passed by Congress since September 11 affecting northern border security issues, including the Northern Border Hiring Initiative, the Uniting and Strengthening America Act (USA Act), and appropriations bills, which authorize hiring and training hundreds of new customs officers for the northern frontier; as well as, Stabenow says, “improve INS and Customs technology and purchase additional equipment for monitoring the U.S./Canadian border”; and also “require the Attorney General, in consultation with appropriate agencies, to develop technical standards for an integrated automated fingerprint identification system for points of entry and overseas consular posts.”
Sen. Stabenow's “Northern Border Security” page doesn't come right out and say so, but I suspect that not only are the new gates, video cameras (such as the one tripping up Maine resident Richard Albert), together with the personnel to monitor them, a consequence of the new legislation Sen. Stabenow notes above, but it's also very likely, I suggest, that it's a requirement of the self-same legislation that violators of closed border crossings receive hefty fines.
Thus, I believe, it's not bureaucratic ineptitude that's on display here, but rather Congressional mandate. As to whether it's therefore inept and unreasonable Congressional mandate, given the horrific events of September 11 and other bloody terrorist encounters both cited and uncited above, it would be exceedingly unwise, in my view, for the country to ignore the obvious need for improved border security.
Canadian Mark Steyn concludes his piece:
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