Last week, the New York Times printed a group of opinions from intellectuals and former members of government concerning what to do with people who manage to go to countries embroiled in violence in the Middle East and South Asia, and then come to the United States. As I read what they had to say, I felt my face redden. I realized why we're in the shape we're in. It made me think of a drunken man burning down his home and killing his family by smoking in bed, and then reading a panel discussion about how to stop people from drinking cheap liquor.
There are certain things you don't get to do because there's no valid reason for doing them, and they could cause immense harm to others. Kids don't get to bring guns to school. No one is allowed to have intimate contact with anyone against that person's will. No one gets to bring hand grenades to an airport. We can all think of examples.
Is there any reason we cannot add to that list that no one gets to go to a country where terrorists are at war with the United States or its partners and then come to the United States, unless that person is an accredited journalist or cleared by our government? What would be the reason for going? Vacation? Prurient interest?
There can be only two reasons for going: to fight or to learn how to fight, but then again, maybe to do both. The odds could be overwhelming that having such a person enter the United States will not be beneficial, and the downside was on display last week in Paris for the world to see.
Discussions like the one in the Times demonstrate how we drown in our own "niceguyism" and desperation to parse our Constitution to justify looking the other way when judging behavior, no matter how questionable, for fear of treading on someone's rights. Our Constitution may be better than anyone else's, but it is not empirically perfect, and it doesn't apply to everyone on the planet. Nor should it automatically apply to anyone who inexplicably behaves in a way that can have no other purpose but to harm this country.
I thought about some of the solutions about what to do with visitors to these specific places. One expert suggested probation and surveillance bracelets. Do we not have enough ordinary criminals about whom we have to worry? Are we going to tell such people that they may not enter kosher establishments? Another eschewed preventive measures that might be considered punitive. Isn't the refusal to be proactive a major reason for the situation in which we find ourselves? The other opinions were no better.
So, what is the solution? Let's look at the two possible situations. Either the person in question started in the United States, or that journey of discovery started in some country other than the United States. Either way, whoever you are, you're not coming to the United States.
If you're not an American citizen, no visa, period. If you get to an American port of entry, we'll even give you a choice: detention at the airport until you get on a plane out to somewhere else, or custody and trial, followed by 10 years imprisonment and mandatory deportation. And you better have a foreign passport, because we're taking your American passport and that may cancel option one.
If you are an American, you're stripped of your citizenship and given the same two options. Once, dear reader, you've finished recoiling in horror and asking how that would be possible, the answer is simple. Enact the necessary laws, and, if necessary, amend the Constitution. The latter is not likely to be necessary, because there are perfidious acts that, when committed against this country, already lead to revocation of citizenship even for American-born citizens.
Paranoia? Did you happen to lose anyone on 9/11? Know anyone in Paris? Ever cancel a trip to Israel because "it just wasn't the right time"? Remember what Satchel Paige said about paranoia? It went something like, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean nobody's chasing you." Pretty smart for a baseball player.
Too simplistic and right-wing? Revisionists have said that about the atomic bombing of Japan, an act that affected more people than this approach ever would. Sometimes, simplistic is just the thing.