Last night at the Hammer Museum….
THE PRICE OF TERROR AND THE COST OF SECURITY
More than a trillion dollars has been spent on homeland security since 9/11, yet two amateur terrorists—with homemade bombs that cost $100—were able to shut down Boston for a week. John Mueller, author of Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security; Jeffrey Simon, author of Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat; and William Arkin, co-author of Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, evaluate whether the enormous cost of security is making us any safer.
These three gentleman spoke about how fear generated from terrorism has led to billions of dollars being spent on homeland security, under the direction of both democratic and republican governments. Fear gets dollars was how I understood the process, even though, statistically speaking we should be spending our money on more likely threats to our existence, such as motor vehicle accidents. All crime generates fear, so Jeffrey Simon posed the question about the difference between crime and terrorism. This question intrigued me because I think the difference is the extent to which fear is generated. A neighborhood murder creates fear in that area, but the Boston Marathon bombing creates fear in the world. The internet has made terrorism more potent, both in gathering together terrorists, and spreading the fear at rapid clip. Still, Mr. Simon reminded me that antisocial behaviors create a continuum of fear, and as such, terrorism is not so easily defined. The generation of fear gives power, and so fear, seems to be the psychological reward, for terrorist behavior. That said, if we could respond to these crimes without getting scared, then maybe we could diminish the motivation of the perpetrator. Spending a lot of money on a low-likelihood event seems to reward the criminal. This seems to be the world of forensic psychologists, trying to understand the thinking of the evil-doer. Once again, understanding can change how we allocate our resources. So, we have another argument for the value of digging into mental states.