Yes, the terrorists are trying to kill us.
Breaking news from the Christian Science Monitor reports, “Two explosions rocked central Stockholm Saturday evening in what Swedish police have called a terrorist attack. One man, who appears to have been a suicide bomber, was killed, and two people were injured. The explosions occurred about ten minutes after a Swedish news agency and police received a threatening e-mail that referred to Sweden’s troops in Afghanistan and a Swedish cartoonist’s controversial 2007 depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. The attacks bring the struggle with terrorism to Sweden, which until now has avoided the violent attacks that have taken place in other European nations.”
I am often asked, “Why don’t try the terrorists try that here?” The answer is “Wake up!” They have. There have been dozens of attempted terrorist attacks on the U.S. since 9/11—everything from bombing shopping malls to taking down planes.
Likely as not until we see the end of al-Qaeda—which involves demoralizing, destroying, and de-legitimatize its mad dreams—there will be those who continue to try to kill us.What will we do if there’s another successful terrorist strike on U.S. soil?
A key first step is thinking through how we should respond to attacks beforehand. I first wrote about this in 2004. Now in the wake of the reminder from Stockholm, I thought I would update the list of what not do after the next terrorist strike on the homeland. If and when the next attack occurs, there are four arguments we will undoubtedly hear. They are simple, clear cut—and usually wrong:
Throw money at the problem. If another terrorist attack occurs, we’ll hear shrill cries to child-proof America. But few problems can be solved by money alone. We are spending enough on homeland security—we should spend smarter than spend more. Fire grants are a case in point. We dump millions in the program each year. Homeland security even gave money to ACORN! The fact is that these grants do not “reduce firefighter deaths, firefighter injuries, civilian deaths, and civilian injuries.” Such stupid spending has to stop.
Trade safety for civil liberties. Calls for new security measures that require temporary impositions on basic civil liberties will surely be heard. That’s just dumb. The recent hubbub over airport security inspection procedures shows that Americans are bone-tired of needlessly being imposed on—let alone having their civil liberties undermined.
On the other hand, Americans should beware of hysterical claims that every government action to fight terrorism is a slap at the Constitution. The USA PATRIOT Act is a case in point. Its detractors have yet to identify a single abuse or prove that any of its provisions are unconstitutional. On the other hand, the PATRIOT Act has been an important tool for thwarting terrorist attacks. The White House was just flat wrong in asking for only a one-year extension of key authorities established by the act. The debate over the balance between civil liberties and security warrants thoughtful debate, not knee-jerk histrionics.
America is wrong. If there’s another attack, one explanation will be that we deserved it. Fewer Western nations have had a more modest profile in combating terrorism than Sweden. Yet the Swedes came into the crosshairs anyway. When will people get it? They hate us because of who we are—symbols of free, tolerant societies—not because of what we do.
We’re on the wrong course. In all wars we witness advances and setbacks, victories and casualties. Every incident is not a call for change. In fact, just the opposite is true. Obama has tacked more and more back toward Bush’s policies of combating terrorism and winning in Afghanistan because he understands, more and more, that it is the strategy that works. We should be encouraging the White House to stay the course and stay tough on terrorism.
No Administration can guarantee it will stop every attack everywhere. But if we take the offensive, we can take the initiative away from the terrorists, lessen their chances of success, mitigate the damage they cause, and one day live in a world where they are left in the pages of history.