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Have you heard about the 'Gaza Freedom March?' Probably not.

Did you know that the Gaza Freedom March -- a group of over 1300 peace activists from 43 countries -- is protesting the continued siege of Gaza, on the anniversary of the brutal Israeli assault that killed over a thousand people last year? (There is also a separate effort to bring a convoy of relief aid to the Gazans, under the auspices of the group Viva Palestina).

Did you know that the Freedom March is now stuck in Cairo, because the Egyptian government has denied them permission to travel to Gaza? The Mubarak regime has its own issues with Hamas, and it is also dependent on U.S. economic and military aid. Israel and the United States don't want the adverse publicity that the Freedom March might generate and are perfectly content to let the Gazans suffer, so needless to say Washington isn't putting any pressure on Egypt to let the convoy through.

Did you know that this event is being extensively covered in the Arab world, and may be causing problems for Mubarak & Co., as the Egyptians are once again being exposed as complicit in the collective punishment that Israel is inflicting on the population of Gaza?

Did you know that one of the participants in the convoy is an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor (Hedy Epstein), and that she recently began a hunger strike to protest the refusal to let the convoy go to Gaza?

You probably didn't know about any of this, but it's not really your fault. You probably get your news from mainstream outlets like the New York Times or Washington Post, and neither of these illustrious newspapers has bothered to cover this story. What do they consider important? Well, in the case of the Times, their idea of a big Mideast story right now is the heart-warming saga of a little shwarma shop in Amman. 

If you do want to learn a bit more about this worthy effort to help the Gazans, you can go to the group's website, here. Or you can follow it on Mondoweiss, here. Or even read about it in Ha'aretz, here.  And then you might have a better idea why the Mubarak government isn't very popular, why Israel faces growing censure for its conduct, why the United States continues to be despised in much of the Arab and Islamic world, and why the blogosphere is so important.

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Stephen M. Walt

More on the illusion of 'perfect security'

A quick follow-up to my previous post on the illusion of achieving perfect security against terrorist attack: Today's NY Times has an op-ed by Clark Kent Ervin, a former State Department official who know heads the Aspen Institute's Homeland Security program. Ervin makes a number of good points in his piece, but his wrap-up reveals a curious lack of understanding of the basic problem. He writes:

Perhaps the biggest lesson for airline security from the recent incident is that we must overcome our tendency to be reactive. We always seem to be at least one step behind the terrorists. They find one security gap -- carrying explosives onto a plane in their shoes, for instance -- and we close that one, and then wait for them to exploit another. Why not identify all the vulnerabilities and then address each one before terrorists strike again?"

Sorry, Mr. Ervin, but it is impossible to "identify all the vulnerabilities and address each one" beforehand. That is like asking a football coach to identify all the different ways the other team might try to score, and "address each one." The problem is that the other side can think and plan and innovate too, and develop creative new ways to deal with any security measure we might dream up. In any competitive, strategic interaction, there's rarely if ever a "last move" and one is sometimes forced to be reactive because the other side takes the initiative in ways we simply didn't think of. The best we can do is try to make it very hard for terrorists to attack us, which can both protect us directly and force them to take more elaborate measures that in turn makes it easier to find them beforehand. 

But it is a little worrisome to read that a knowledgeable official with lots of experience still thinks it is possible to achieve some sort of perfect defense.

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