Some police states are smart, calculated power grabs. Others are dumb defaults. A smart police state suspects everyone because itís a tyranny. A dumb police state is run by people who canít or wonít narrow down the suspect list so that they are forced to suspect everyone.
The United States has been on the road to becoming a dumb police state for a while now. Itís not dumb because its law enforcement officers and military commanders are stupid. They are actually some of the best in the world. Itís a dumb police state because fear of bigotry makes selective mistrust impossible.
The problem hit home for most people when the TSA began strip searching small children and amputees who were a long way from the typical profile of a Saudi male in his twenties or thirties likely to hijack a plane and fly it into a skyscraper.
This didnít happen because the TSA was run by idiots. That might still be the case, but the TSA was only doing exactly what all American law enforcement had been doing ever since the seventies. It was choosing universal mistrust over selective mistrust. It suspected everyone to avoid singling anyone out. Unfortunately the entire job of airline security depends on intelligently singling out likely suspects, rather than randomly terrorizing passengers in the name of protecting them from terrorists.
Pandering to Islam is just the latest phase in the dumbing down of law enforcement that began when civil liberties activists made it nearly impossible for police to do their jobs. After decades of lawsuits and judicial activism, law enforcement and a new generation of urban mayors reclaimed troubled areas with ruthless policing that terrorized people across the board.
The tactics worked and liberals learned to love the police state because it kept them safe and because it did not discriminate. As long as anyone was liable to be randomly shot, without regard for their personal details, then the police state was fine with them. Once they had been mugged enough times, they realized that they didnít oppose aggressive policing. What they opposed was selectively aggressive policing. Random terror against random terror was fine with them.
This strange compromise between liberals and law enforcement led to a perverse police state in which any form of discrimination based on likelihood of criminality was worse than the actual crime or than treating everyone like a criminal.
Terrorism upgraded these same tactics on a larger scale. The TSA gave the entire country a taste of the tactics that reclaimed inner cities. Behind the scenes, national versions of urban law enforcement tactics were being deployed. Meanwhile the real threat was getting a taste of traditional community policing with FBI agents and Federal prosecutors waiting in line at every mosque entrance to talk about how the government can help Muslims prevent terrorism by treating it like a social problem.
Terrorism investigations were not crippled by a unique set of protests, but by the same civil liberties tactics that hamstrung law enforcement back in the day. The only difference is that unlike fighting crime, there was hardly even a transition from a time when law enforcement had broad discretion for dealing with terrorists. The War on Terror was doomed to be a grimy combination of international peacekeeping and community policing in Benghazi and Kabul from the very beginning.