I’m agnostic on the question of cargo screening. My inclination is to think that we’re now over-stressing defensive anti-terror efforts compared to offensive ones, but my opinion on the matter wouldn’t be a bargain for a quarter. Whether, among defensive options, universal cargo screening is on the high end or the low end of the relevant cost-effectiveness range, and how good the prospects are for technological fixes to bring down the cost or boost the effectiveness, are questions still further beyond my ken.
But strictly as a matter of politics, if the Bush Administration and the Heritage Foundation want to argue that the Democrats now running the Congress are too focused on security, and are proposing anti-terrorist measures that cost too much, all I can say is, “Make my day.”
Merely getting the Bushies to say that some things are worth doing in the name of security, and others aren’t, would be a triumph. As to cost-effectiveness, it’s going to be hard for them to make that argument with a straight face after dropping most of a trillion dollars on making Iraq a more friendly place for terrorists of all descriptions. How many days of “surge” would it take to exceed the lifetime cost of 100% cargo screening? Not many, I’d bet.