For most Americans, homeland security has been a new, difficult and very expensive dance.
Unlike out-and-out war, it requires an open-ended commitment that could one day make the 30-year War look quick and easy. It is difficult because it is frustrating. Free people should not have to have their shoes inspected whenever they go off to visit Grandma in Peoria. As for the expense, security for the three-week Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City ran up a tab of $300 million. That's $10,000 a minute.
But such is life post 9/11.
As the kids say, live with it.
As security experts grapple with better ways to make security more efficient, however, several ideas do seem promising. Radio commentators have pointed out that more "customized" alerts may be in order. Right now, when New York City goes on heightened alert, so does the rest of the nation, including the otters in Alaska and the roadrunners in Death Valley. Singling out some of the more vulnerable areas for, say, an "orange" alert while leaving others at "blue" may eventually be more realistic. It might also cut down on the fear that crying wolf will eventually serve to simply make everyone numb and
That said, America is learning that outguessing terrorists is not easy. In the last attack, terrorists obviously chose symbols of America's military might (The Pentagon), business might (The World Trade Center) and likely — in a failed attempt — the nation's political might (the White House or the Capitol). Making a statement is as vital to their cause as mayhem. Recent reports, for instance, claim that al-Qaida was recently considering an attack on Pearl Harbor, hoping to reopen a slow-to-heal American wound.
"Symbolic" attacks on Wall Street, NASA or even cultural icons such as Disneyland would not be out of the question.
There are so many things to consider, and so little time.
As Americans slowly adjust to a new world — a world of random attacks — they must be willing to make the hard choices to cope. They must be willing to sacrifice money, lifestyle and a degree of freedom in order to preserve such things.
We hope that as the people adjust to homeland security, the Department of Homeland Security will adjust as well and find, where possible, subtle and non-invasive ways of protecting the nation without compromising its mission.