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More airport security won’t do much to stop terrorists. Leaving the Middle East would.

Ending US interference, including military support for Israel, could significantly reduce the rationale for terrorist acts.

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Earlier this week, Osama bin Laden praised the Christmas Day attack in which a Nigerian-born man living in London attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane by igniting explosives in his underwear.

Mr. bin Laden’s endorsement, along with recent attacks in Baghdad, raise concerns about a new round of attacks against the United States. Politicians, security experts, and pundits have therefore called for heightened security measures at airports and on airplanes.

It won’t work without addressing why there are attacks to begin with.

Additional security measures may prevent a few attacks, at least until terrorists learn to circumvent the new policies. But these measures will have little lasting impact, as with many past tactics, because they do nothing to reduce the demand for terrorism against the US.

If the desire to engage in a certain activity is not reduced, attempts to raise the costs (such as harsher punishment) of such an activity do not matter much.

Consider the evidence from existing policies toward drugs, prostitution, and immigration. In each case, policy tries to ban or limit the activity, hoping to raise the costs of supplying it. Meanwhile, minimal effort is exerted to reduce the demand for intoxication, sex, and a higher income.

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