August 28, 2002

RICHARD POSNER REVIEWS Alan Dershowitz’s new book on terrorism in The New Republic. Although Posner is appropriately critical of Dershowitz’s general tendency toward showboating (the opening paragraph is delightful on this subject), he’s surprisingly positive of the book, concluding:

Dershowitz’s book will anger unreconstructed civil libertarians, the government-phobes on the extreme right, and Arafat’s European apologists. That is a considerable merit; but more important is that he has shown that international terrorism does not present an insoluble contradiction between the Constitution and American security.

I agree that there’s no “insoluble contradiction” there and I think it’s unfortunate that both advocates of law enforcement power and civil libertarians often act as if there is an inevitable tradeoff between freedom and security. But many things that enhance security (like killing Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or in any other country where they may be found) pose no risk to freedom. And many things that intrude on freedom (like airport tweezer-confiscation policies) do nothing to enhance security. We forget this at our peril.

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