It has become fashionable in Washington to speak of "false choices" — "the false choice between our values and our security" or "the false choice between our liberties and our national defense," for example. Apparently, we don't need to make these choices.
I often wonder, while standing in the body-search line while trying to get on an airplane, or trying to get into Yankee Stadium, or trying to enter a federal courthouse, whether any sensible person really thinks the conflict between the things we want to do and the security we need to do them is a "false choice." Most people, I would guess, view such choices as a matter of common sense, and an inevitable part of life.
To make such choices is often hard, calling for maturity and judgment. To deny that they have to be made is childish and irrational.
It is not a matter of choosing between, for example, our security and our values. Our security is one of our values. Indeed, it is the one that makes the liberties we cherish more than mere parchment promises.
The difficulty is that our values don't exist in a vacuum. They conflict and compete. Even vital ones — values everyone concedes the importance of — are sometimes overcome by values of even greater significance.
This is especially dramatic when the value is an individual right we hold dear, and it collides with a value that is critical to the life of our body politic — critical to the arrangements a free society such as ours must have in order to thrive.
That is the essence of the debate over "libel tourism."