The idea that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can stop terrorist attacks by means of its now-infamous “porno scanner,” or by forcing Americans to undergo intrusive body pat-downs as if they were inmates in a correctional facility, is utter nonsense, and everybody knows it—including our government officials.  The scanners cannot detect explosives that are secured inside the body, and who can doubt Al Qaeda would go to such lengths?  The pat-downs are worse than useless; anyone who is bringing contraband on board is going to allow for this.  The terrorists are always one step ahead of us: We’re still taking off our shoes because the “Shoe-na-bomber” tried to hide an explosive in his shoe, which didn’t even go off.  They’re searching our underwear because the “Underwear Bomber” hid an explosive there, which likewise failed to detonate.

In the meantime, the millions of tons of cargo that come in by ship every day from ports all around the world go unexamined and unscanned.  If you were a terrorist trying to smuggle, say, a suitcase nuke, would you carry it on a plane—or a boat?  The 9/11 Commission made these points about unexamined cargo years ago, and yet nothing has been done.  What’s more, every day thousands of illegal immigrants cross over into the United States, and yet calls to plug this giant hole in our national security are met with cries of “racism”!

Even if we did maintain some degree of control over our borders, even if we began to scan incoming ship cargo, and even if the American people would grin and bear intrusive body searches every time they got on a plane, still, it wouldn’t be enough.

With all our billions of dollars in “security” measures, the astonishing fact is that we have yet to capture a single terrorist intent on committing midair mayhem.  Not a single one.  The terrorists are a lot smarter than that: They have better things to do.  My guess is that Al Qaeda is now working on what it regards as a knockout blow to the Great Satan: a massive attack using our own technology against us.  It could be coming via ship, or overland, or by some other means; it could involve a suitcase nuke, a “dirty bomb,” or something even more lethal, like an epidemic.  We cannot know—but we can know that it will be nothing like what they’ve done in the past, except insofar as the attack uses our own capacities against us.

What we have to realize is this: There is no effective defense against terrorism.  We are too big, our transportation and other systems are too complex, to be defended against a micro-enemy of this sort.  In a nation of some 300 million human beings, with thousands of miles of unsecured border and uncounted entry points, no real defense against terrorism, short of shutting down the system entirely, is possible.

Our response to the September 11 terrorist attacks—the invasion and occupation of Muslim countries in the Middle East and Central Asia—sealed our doom.  That gave Osama bin Laden & Co. access to and credibility with the great majority of people in those countries, and Muslims around the world.  Thanks to the policymakers in Washington, the terrorists will never suffer from a lack of eager “martyrs,” and they’ll keep coming at us until one of them gets through.

There was a time, early on, when we could have taken a different course.  If, immediately after the attacks, we had put the terrorist problem in its proper perspective, we might have avoided our present predicament.  If, instead of embarking on a futile quest to “drain the swamp” of Islamic extremism, we had concentrated on decapitating Al Qaeda’s leadership—if we had asked ourselves why, during the height of the Mafia’s many bomb attacks during the 1920’s and 30’s, America didn’t invade Italy—we might have been spared.

Alas, it is too late for that.  We are too far down the road to ruin to turn back now.  As much as I hate to admit it, even if we changed our foreign policy, announced that we would no longer be sending our expeditionary forces to maul the natives, and made an ostentatious display of giving up the empire, it wouldn’t matter one whit.  Too much blood has been spilled, too many myrmidons have arisen from the soil of our conquests, and too much money has been invested in the business of “counterterrorism” to bring it all to a halt now.

What we are in for is this: As the terrorist campaign against the U.S. government takes on new forms—in guises we have not and will not anticipate—the American Gulliver will finally be brought to his knees.  The “security” operations being implemented by Washington will take on an even more repressive and outrageous character, until what is left of our liberties is worth much less than one of our devalued and debased dollars.