Feel good safety

In what largely amounts to a “feel good” measure, the US has increased the number of air marshals deployed as a response to the recent terrorist attacks in the UK.

I like air marshals, and I think it’s a good program. It is good to have the possibility that an armed officer is on my flight so that he could plug a terrorist bastard should the need arise. That being said, my liking of the air marshal does nothing to assuage my belief that the odds of an air marshal being in precisely the right place at the right time to stop a terrorist are pretty slim.

Plus, if you add to that equation that the sort of people that blow up planes generally don’t care if they die; that has the unfortunate side effect of lowering the ability of an air marshal to effectively deal with a terrorist situation. But we’ve all been over this ground before, and it hasn’t changed anything.

It’s the “feel good” safety mentality that bothers me. I was in DHS and DoD, I know (and they know) that if some crazy Islamist really gets a wild hair up his keister, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot we can actually do to stop it. So we get a few more air marshals, post a few more cops at the checkpoints, and maybe if we’re lucky step up the approval process for the Federal Flight Deck officer program.

But ultimately it’s just so that people feel good about their safety. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with feeling good; as long as good feelings aren’t used as a substitute for actual safety. I don’t think, even for a minute, that you or I should go around living in fear of a terrorist attack. It’s counterproductive to living an enjoyable life. However, I do believe that individuals should be cognizant that the government cannot (and should not) be relied upon to provide for your safety as an individual. Your safety is no one’s responsibility but your own.

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