Monday, December 01, 2008

Get Down Again!

Adam Serwer comments on the machismo response tragedies like Mumbai elicit from some conservatives. Here's John Hinderaker:
I wondered earlier today how a mere ten terrorists could bring a city of 19 million to a standstill. Here in the U.S., I don't think it would happen. I think we have armed security guards who know how to use their weapons, supplemented by an unknown number of private citizens who are armed and capable of returning fire. The Indian experience shows it is vitally important that this continue to be the case. This is a matter of culture as much as, or more than, a matter of laws.

Serwer responds:
This is a really strange and immature coping mechanism that manifests on the right in times of high profile tragedy. Rather than contemplate being a victim of a terrorist attack, the subject imagines him or herself as the star of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. I'd say it's simple racism, but it really is fear masquerading as bravado, a cultural chauvanism that directs itself at other Americans as readily as it does at foreigners. It is the "short skirt" theory of violence. If it happened, you must have been asking for it.

Look, I admit to doing this too. I have my own little fantasies of disarming the baddie with a well placed strike to the wrist, downing him with a left hook to the liver, then grabbing the now-abandoned gun to give my compatriots time to escape and seek aid (I suppose it's my wussy liberalism that prevents me from systematically gunning down the remaining perps with my shirt torn masculinely asunder). The difference is that I don't explode these adolescent dreams into a full-fledged national security policy.

Anyway, as Serwer notes we saw this same thing after Virginia Tech (although Hokies apparently aren't "real Americans" to Hinderaker, presumably because they're attending college). I'd also like to add that a) your average security guard is neither trained nor equipped to counter highly trained suicidal terrorists bent on destruction and carrying automatic weapons and grenades, and b) a firefight breaking out between, say, the terrorists and hotel guests, will not only likely turn out badly for the guests, but will make rescue operations an absolute nightmare for the police.

Via Ezra Klein.


PG said...

"a firefight breaking out between, say, the terrorists and hotel guests, will not only likely turn out badly for the guests, but will make rescue operations an absolute nightmare for the police."

There's also the fact that in a *hostage* situation, the rational reaction is to do what the hostage-takers tell you in hopes of getting out alive. This is why only the passengers on United 93 rushed the terrorists in the cockpit on 9/11. It's not that the other three planes were full of cowardly girlymen, but that until the planes started hitting the towers, it was rational to assume that this was a typical hijacking in which the terrorists would make demands in exchange for the passengers' safety.

I suppose Hinderaker also is the type to challenge the conventional wisdom on armed mugging (just give them the money so they'll let you go) in favor of getting into a gunfight over his wallet.

Anonymous said...

Its not just bravado (or racism). If this were to occur in Israel the police would have headed towards the terrorists instead of cowering in fear as the Indian police did.

JohnKanaka said...

And we are to take the words of one eyewitness as Gospel? What about the thousands of others- or is the fact that this guy was lucky enough to snap a pic the only thing that gives weight to his words.

Kadorak said...

I would also submit that, even if Israeli police would have handled the matter differently, that's no guarantee American police would have. American police, like Indian police, primarily deal with much more minor law enforcement issues. They may carry firearms more routinely, but only a few teams in a few police departments have shootouts with automatic weaponry (as far as I know). It's quite possible that people trained primarily to deal with ghetto drug gangs and petty street crime would not have a clue about what to do against a full-scale terrorist assault.

Israel may be different, but that's because terrorism is so much more realistic a danger in Israel than anywhere else.