National Security

London Terrorist Attack Demonstrates the Need for More Productive Debate on National Security

It is time to end the hateful arguments from both sides over immigration and America’s national security…

The details are still emerging, but it appears as though a terrorist attacked London. An attacker drove his car into a crowd on Westminster Bridge, near Big Ben, and killed five people while wounding as many as 40. This is tragic news, and the victims have my prayers. Unfortunately, what tends to happen—even before the dead are buried and often before many basic facts are known—is the same acrimonious debate.

Side A says that this incident will be used by racists and xenophobic individuals to spread more hatred. They worry that refugees and displaced persons will no longer be accepted. They point to Christian notions of love that should motivate the response to humanity despite an occasional nut that might tarnish the entire group. Sometimes they blame an atmosphere of hatred and intolerance. For example, even though JFK was shot by an avowed communist, there are some who blame the “right-wing climate of hatred” for his murder. The targets on a Sarah Palin political ad become the motivation for the shooting of Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords, and so on.

Side B is hardly better. They argue that the other side actively undermines the country and rule of law by supporting illegal immigration and failing to properly vet incoming refugees. They can’t fathom why anybody would oppose measures designed to ensure national security unless they don’t truly love their country. They point to the Paris terrorist attacks—which included several attackers with refugee passports—and both Germany and Sweden include reports of rampant sexual assaults from refugees.

Might I suggest a solution in the form of a slightly different question? Both sides tend to assume bad faith of the other. Side A believes that Side B is racist, small-minded, unloving, and even bloodthirsty. Side B thinks that Side A is un-American, uninterested or incapable of defending America from terrorists, and blinded to the real threat America faces. Both sides do have their nutty extremes, but for the most part, both are very compassionate and care about the country. With that in mind, we might recognize that both sides have sincere intentions and ask a better question.

The question is what legitimate safety measures we might implement that prevent terrorists from entering the country while remaining truly compassionate to those trying to come here. When individuals reframe the question in this manner, they assume good faith on the part of their ideological opponents and lessen the chance of the conversation descending into bitterness and acrimony. The new question advances the discussion to include what reasonable measures the country can take concerning the vetting of refugees, the impact of gun control legislation, proper security procedures at the airport, how to balance compassion with security, and so forth.

It’s hard to have a substantive discussion when it’s easier to vent rage at the other side. But the child sex slaves fleeing ISIS, persecuted Christians, and terrorists trying to infiltrate the country are all problems that deserve substantive discussion. We must rise above the tendency to think the worst of the other side. As Lincoln said on the Gettysburg battlefield, it is up to the living to resolve that the dead should not have died in vain. We owe the dead from today’s terrorist attacks no less. Let us honor their memory by having a productive dialogue on the topic that leads to real solutions.

Morgan Deane is an OpsLens Contributor and a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman. Deane also served in the National Guard as an Intelligence Analyst.


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Morgan Deane

Morgan Deane is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry rifleman. Deane also served in the National Guard as an Intelligence Analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming book Decisive Battles in Chinese history, as well as Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon.

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