It is unfortunate that there has been another attempt at terrorism on an aircraft, in the form of explosives strapped to the suspect's leg and mixed with chemicals from a syringe, which luckily did not detonate. But the terrorist should be proud of what he has done, this act will obviously lead to more stringent security measures which will inconvenience every passenger, especially the ones of suspicious ethnicity.
Considering the massive numbers of people who fly everyday, even a failed act of terrorism can accomplish a lot. According to the Air Transport Association's 2009 Economic Report, US carriers average 2 million passengers daily, each of whom will have to spend around 15 minutes extra on stricter security measures. That would mean about 10417 man-days spent on security. With an average life-span of 80, this would be equivalent to around 130 man-lives wasted on a single day. If you look at the number of people who will be scared into taking other forms of much slower travel, we have even more man-lives wasted.
These are informal numbers (the actual numbers are far greater) thrown at the reader, but you get the idea, it's a sorry state of affairs. Fear has taken more lives than the acts of terrorism themselves. But it is a little less sudden, so we do not really see the best parts of our lives pass us by, security check by security check.
I don't know if terrorists are proud of this fact, but it's obviously helping their cause. Yet, I can never imagine Bin Laden releasing a tape which proudly states how they have made the 'people of evil America' waste 15 minutes of their lives as they got felt up by strange security officers.
But returning to the security aspect. Security is mostly retaliatory; all measures are made to prevent what has already happened and to make it harder for copycat crimes. The job of the terrorist, almost like a game, is to find what exists and look for the weakness which can be exploited. Security only increases the cost of terrorism, mostly at a far greater cost to the intended target. It might put off the weak-hearted but the fundamentalists out there have enough faith to spend massive amounts of time, intellect and money in a quest to destroy.
No security is ever going to be enough. We just have to watch the authorities get tougher and tougher, even as we convince ourselves of their efficacy, while terrorists attempt to prove us wrong. It us a battle of wits, in which we lose out no matter what. The walls of security, aiming to protect us, only take our lives in a more silent and recognizable pace, like the queues at McDonald's or Starbucks.
Only the innocent non-Caucasians who share ethnicity, or looks or language or any other feature, with the terrorists face a little more discomfort. But this is a "War on Terrorism" and collateral damage is a part of every war. I look forward to my beard being eyed suspiciously the next time I board a flight.