August 2, 2004

IN THE MAIL: Michelle Malkin’s audacious new book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror.

I’ve always regarded the internment of Japanese-Americans and Japanese residing in America during World War II as both a tragic mistake and a grievous wrong. That’s the conventional wisdom, and Malkin sets out to refute it, arguing that (1) there were more reasons to fear espionage and sabotage than many critics realized until the recent declassification of intelligence data from MAGIC and other formerly secret sources: and (2) the internment wasn’t as at odds with international law and norms of human rights as critics claim.

Her bigger point, however, is that we’re still fighting the last war today by letting concerns about that history stand in the way of much-more-moderate efforts in the War on Terror. I don’t know that she’ll have much luck changing a lot of minds on this topic, though her book may serve to get the discussion going. Unless, of course, there’s another major terror attack, in which case people may wish we’d given the subject more careful thought over the past couple of years.

There is a lot of concern over illegal immigration and its links to terror — you hear a lot of it on the second-tier talk-radio shows, where the hosts aren’t quite as worried about their position in the larger media world, and I’ve heard a lot of callers express deep dissatisfaction with how the Bush Administration is handling immigration.

To me it seems we have the worst of both worlds. The immigration system is hard and unpleasant for honest immigrants, tourists, and traveling professionals, while being largely porous to criminals and terrorists. I don’t know how to fix it, but it pretty clearly needs fixing.

I’m quite pro-immigration, but being in favor of letting in people who want to come here and become Americans (like my delightful sister-in-law Victoria) isn’t the same as being in favor of scrutiny-free borders — much less a system that treats honest folks like criminals while serving as no real impediment to actual criminals. This needs fixing, badly, but I’m afraid that we’re suffering from political paralysis on this front.

UPDATE: Related thoughts from Susanna Cornett.

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