The Independent Institute offers condolences to all those suffering in the continuing wake of terrorist attacks and mass murders around the world. We join the civilized world in condemning these horrific deeds. All those specific individuals responsible for the planning and organization of the murders, injuries, and damages of September 11th and afterward must be brought to justice for these barbaric acts.
Understandably, many Americans have been supporting government actions that, under normal circumstances, would be considered unacceptable legally and morally. But, history teaches that crisis periods produce even greater problems and suffering as the heavy hand of unchecked government power crowds out civil society.
For example, U.S. government agencies have been given unprecedented surveillance and police powers to arrest people indefinitely without charge or trial and to intercept all private communications, transactions, and records. Such attempts to trade liberty for security can only produce neither. Americans seek security, but not as an end in itself. We seek security to enjoy the blessings of liberty. Attempts to trade liberty for security can only produce neither. Instead, we must achieve security in a manner consistent with a diverse and open society, individual liberty, and the rule of law.
Achieving security as we uphold these values means that we must strenuously oppose any xenophobic outbursts and actions against innocent Islamic, Jewish, or other people in the U.S. or abroad.
It is also appropriate to ask why America draws terrorist attacks and hatred. In answering this question, we should look closely at whether the U.S. governments extensive operations abroad remain true to our values.
It is also appropriate to ask why government, defense, intelligence, and airport security operations failed to prevent the tragedy of September 11th, and why this failure somehow warrants expanding failed systems with more money and extraordinary powers. Indeed, no one has been held accountable for such failure, and instead all such agency budgets have sky-rocketed as the U.S. has embarked on a highly dangerous policy of pre-emptive, global interventionism. Unleashing the uncontainable violence of war invites further atrocities against innocent people on a massive scale, with the strong likelihood of yet new and even worse reprisals against Americans and other people around the world.
The valuable lessons that the answers to these difficult questions teach us can forestall similar and far more devastating tragedies from occurring in the future.
The Statue of Liberty is recognized worldwide with good reason as a symbol of liberty and justice for all. The peaceful spread of these ideals must be our best and most enduring export. And, we will win the hearts and minds of individuals the world over only if we adhere to these valuesat home and abroadwith the fidelity that those values demand.