Tuesday, January 05, 2010

When Janet Napolitano retracted her comment that 'the system worked', most people took this as an admission that the system did in fact not work... an impression seemingly confirmed both by Obama's comment that a 'systemic failure' allowed the Christmas bomber to board the plane and Brennan's comment on Sunday that the 'system worked every other day' in 2009.

And that impression would be wrong, the system did work.

Keep in mind that a system is not an end goal but rather a process by which one hopes to get to an end goal and thus needs to be evaluated in terms of whether the desired end goal was in fact met.

Now... if one thought the goal of airline security was to keep would-be terrorists off of planes, then the system can obviously be judged a failure.

However... that isn't the goal that the system was put into place to accomplish. The politicians and bureaucrats who designed and implement the system didn't design the system to keep ALL would-be terrorists off of planes... because that wasn't - and isn't - their goal.

Their goals (actually, multiple goals) were to (1) create an impression that they were making an effort to keep terrorists off of plans at the same time (2) they didn't violate liberal sensibilities regarding such issues as profiling and privacy. In a perverse twist of the old line that it is better to let 100 guilty people go free than to jail one who is innocent, they decided that they would rather inconvenience millions of unlikely terrorists than to do what is necessary to keep the would-be terrorists off of airplanes.

And they succeeded in doing this. The system did work.