Monday, June 27, 2011

A more plausible bomb scenario?

Recently I posted on how ridiculous the ticking tim bomb scenario is when discussing torture. It doesn't seem plausible nor a justification for torture. And surely the rest of the world along with us thought so when it decided to outlaw torture under all circumstances.

I thought about the scenario again today when I was watching Casino Royale, the first James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig, not to mention the stunning Eva Green. Towards the beginning of the movie Bond is trying to run down a few bomb makers in hopes of finding the guy who hired them. Eventually he meets up with a guy who is trying to blow up a new airplane being unveiled in an airport so that the main villain of the movie can make a ton of money betting against the company that made the plane.

What I think makes this a more plausible scenario than the often mentioned ticking time bomb one is that the bomber plants it and blows it up right away. Plus he uses a conventional bomb, not a nuclear one which would be nearly impossible to obtain and transport to the desired location. Granted, the guy in the movie just wanted to destroy an airplane. Terrorists want to kill a lot of innocent people. But in the real world we have seen how relatively easy that can be. Anyone who is willing to die just needs to cook up their own bomb at home, strap it to themselves, and go to a public area.

I think that is far, far more likely than any ticking time bomb scenario, and more difficult to prevent. Now that I think about it, its the Bond scenario that would justify torture more than the ticking time bomb one. At least with the ticking time bomb you have some time to try and prevent it. In the Bond scenario it took a really badass fictional character to run a guy down and stop him in the nick of time. And that further highlights the problem with using film and tv as a guide for real world policies.

If a Bond movie tried to be as realistic as possible it would involve James sitting around an office pouring over intel or wandering around for days on end gathering the intel himself. There would be a lot less awesome fight and sex scenes. And even I would be bored watching that. But the real world needs effective and legal policies, not exciting ones that don't work.

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