Ethnic Profiling

ETHNIC PROFILING….Does the airline bombing plot strengthen the argument for ditching fainthearted liberal sensitivities about ethnic profiling? Stephen Bainbridge makes the conservative case for sticking to our principles:

First, while I’m fully cognizant of Emerson’s dictum about consistency, it’s worth pointing out that many advocates of profiling are also opponents of affirmative action. In the latter context, they argue that color-blindness is a basic moral and constitutional precept. If we sacrifice our principles in the name of expediency, aren’t we betraying what makes us different from our opponents?

Second, Judith Miller observes that:

The alienation felt by many Muslims in Western lands is not common in the U.S. And given the integration of Muslims from many Arab and non-Muslim lands in American life, the Muslim rage that devastated Parisian suburbs last summer and shredded the tolerant culture of the Netherlands is not widespread here.

My concern is that if American Muslims start to experience “flying while Muslim,” that will promote precisely the sort of alienation and rage we say in too many European Muslims.

This is wise advice. The airline plot, after all, was initially uncovered because “British authorities received a call from a worried member of the Muslim community, reporting general suspicions about an acquaintance.”

Ethnic profiling of Arabs and Muslims is a blunt weapon that enrages and alienates everyone in the targeted group. In the short run it holds out the promise of preventing terrorist activity and producing useful leads, but in the long run it turns into a vicious circle: it radicalizes more and more of the Muslim community and reduces the number of friends and acquaintances likely to expose that radical behavior to law enforcement. The end result is a catastrophic increase in the very behavior it was meant to control.

This is hardly the only situation where people have a hard time accepting the long-term consequences of short-term policies that seem appealing on the surface. Conservatives and liberals both do it. Usually, though, the results are merely bad, not deadly. In this case, they’re both.