Reactionary bomb-prevention strategies are not the solution

The reaction is nearly routine: tragedy strikes, America responds with angry harrumphs and rhubarb, then we slowly forget and return to our lives. Sometimes these harrumphs address a clear and present danger and are well deserved; sometimes they’re just rhubarb.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, former Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection Robert Liscouski published an opinion piece through CNN which stated, “IEDs are one of the biggest threats to the United States.” His advice in order to prevent future attacks is increasing the Office of Bombing Prevention’s budget.

What I ask in response is, “Why?”

“I don’t think there is an urgent need for prevention (of bombings),” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies Jeremy Rinker in an email interview. “At least, no more than before the Boston bombings.”

I believe there are two main reasons why bombing prevention in America is a fool’s errand: they aren’t a constant danger in our society, and the unpredictability and availability of materials renders them impossible to prevent.

“All the materials and ingredients (to make a bomb) are out there,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “You need fertilizer and diesel fuel. Washing detergent, nails, bolts.”

But one might desperately ask, “Isn’t there anything we can do to prevent these attacks?” The answer is technically yes, but Americans would be forced to cede fundamental rights.

“Sure, there are measures we could take: martial law, totalitarianism, reducing whole populations to the status of virtual prisoners in their own homes and cities,” said Max Carter, director of the Friends Center, in an email interview. “Is that what we want to do?”

I say no. There’s no need to construct a police state because of one bombing.

So, in the face of facts, is bombing prevention in America a viable prospect?

“I am not at all convinced that our form of prevention would actually work,” said Rinker. “Our tendency is to increase security without increasing our understanding and empathy of the possible root causes of such a horrible act.”

One might ask what these “root causes” are. The answer is the same as usual: dissent against inequities, either real or imagined, leads to violent protest by disturbed individuals.

“People that are pissed off, at somebody or the government, want to make a statement,” said Duncan. “As long as you have thinking like that, you’re always going to have that possibility (of bombing attacks).

“We are a very violence-prone society. Hell, our country started at the point of a gun. Our whole history sort of rests on violence.”

One thing that maddens me about the proposal of stepping up bombing prevention in the United States is that it’s raised in willful ignorance of America’s most prevalent source of violence: guns.

“It takes a little brain power to build a bomb,” Duncan said. “Any idiot can pull a trigger.”

In light of this fact, I find it almost appalling Liscouski would state IEDs are a major threat in America after the rash of massacres in 2012. Where was he last year? Vacationing on Uranus?

Notably, Liscouski is the director of Implant Sciences Corporation, manufacturers of bomb detection equipment; I suggest he has a dog in the hunt.

In all seriousness, I believe the issue of bombing prevention in the United States to be nearly a moot point. I wouldn’t advise eliminating the Office of Bombing Prevention or anything rash, but let’s calm down, accept that we can’t stop attacks like the Boston bombings and confront the more pressing problems facing our nation.