On Christmas Day 2009, twenty-three year old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to ignite an explosive device aboard Northwest flight 253 as it approached Detroit. The details are still coming in, but it appears as though he had only partially ignited the explosives attached to his leg, causing a flash and smoke setting himself on fire , but failing to cause catastrophic damage to the airplane and its 289 passengers. Alert individuals and crew were able to subdue the attacker before he succeeded in his plan to take the plane down.
There are several important points to consider in the midst of this media frenzy:
Lesson One: The state did nothing to protect you.
Despite being in the “orange” state of high threat level to domestic and international air travel since 2006, despite billions of dollars in expenditures, despite all the controls placed on your ability to travel unencumbered, taking off your shoes, having your toothpaste, shampoo, and fingernail clippers confiscated, your personal effects rummaged through, all the no-fly lists – the state completely failed to prevent this attacker from boarding a plane with explosives.
Lesson Two: The state put you in danger in the first place.
With over 800 military bases in 140 countries around the world; with constant war in the Middle East, invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, constant threats against Iran, destabilization of Pakistan, unconditional support for the evil state of Israel, a proxy war in Somalia…and on and on… the biggest, most powerful empire in the history of the world has its tentacles in everyone’s business around the globe – killing people on their own land, installing and supporting dictatorships, and manipulating their economies to the benefit of corporate interests in the US.
This is what motivates individuals to commit acts of terrorism, and for as long as it continues, terrorist attacks will continue.
Lesson Three: Individuals take action to protect themselves.
With all the failing of the state to provide protection, individuals took action to protect themselves and those around them. In this case, several alert passengers and crew acted to subdue the attacker and prevent him from carrying his plan to its ultimate end.
Central planning and control does not work, especially in the case of terrorism. Individual action is best confronted by dynamic, individual response. Because of this, airlines are much better suited to handle their own security, as they have an interest in providing safe transportation for their customers. The state subordinates all actors to itself, and forces them to comply with one-size-fits-all rules that are helpless against terrorism.
Lesson Four: The state will grow as a result, despite its failure.
Even after a complete and utter failure to protect individuals, the state will grow in its power and control. More controls will be put in place, and traveling by air will become more onerous and invasive of individual liberty. Unlike free market solutions that go out of business when they fail, and are replaced by better and more effective solutions, the state always grows when it fails. It will capitalize on the fear generated by this near-successful terrorist attack.
Lesson Five: People will continue to look to the state for protection.
With all the evidence clearly pointing to a failure of the state, the people – conditioned through a lifetime of state-run education and state-run media to believe in it as their protector, will ask for more state control to protect them. The bigger hammer theory will apply, as in, “what we need here is a bigger hammer.” When the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When the only tool in your personal philosophical toolbox is statism, you’ll believe that you only need more of it to fix every problem you encounter.
The slippery slope gets steeper.