Regular readers of Notablog know where I stand on many foreign policy questions, and debating those issues here is not my intention.
Suffice it to say, we have been told by the leaders of the "coalition of the willing" that "we" have to "take the war to the terrorists" and fight "over there" so that "we" don't have to face death and destruction "over here." Or as President Bush put it: "Either we take the war to the terrorists and fight them where they are ... or at some point we will have to fight them here at home."
Well, "home" is now London.
And fighting terrorists "where they are" does nothing to stem the tide of their ever-increasing numbers.
This is not an argument, pro or con, for military action in places like Afghanistan or in Iraq. I favored military action in the former case, but opposed it in the latter instance. I have argued that Afghanistan was a hotbed of Al Qaeda activity, and nothing less than the annihilation of that terror group would do in a post-9/11 era. Long-run, however, I have argued that the US needs to change fundamentally its foreign policy.
Putting all these questions aside, my heart goes out to my friends in the UK during this period. To say I empathize is an understatement. Mourn the dead, but keep your crying eyes open. Better to see what lies ahead.
It is very easy to give into fear. "Fear is the antonym of thought." I tell myself: Don't let the politicians manipulate your fear and take away your life and liberty in an effort to "preserve" them. But don't bury your head in the sand either, thinking that Al Qaeda and its affiliates are going to "give up" anytime soon.
I can tell my readers that since September 2001, I have had at least one fear. That someday, probably in late fall or winter, people, full of rage, will wrap themselves up in explosives, hidden carefully beneath layers of clothing typical for the season. And they will enter the subway system, by boarding subway cars in the outer boroughs of New York City, perhaps in Queens, or the Bronx, or my beloved Brooklyn. And they'll sit quietly in the subway car, among unsuspecting people on their way to work, until the train is pulling into a major Manhattan destination, like Times Square, or Penn Station, or Grand Central, or, perhaps, while going over an East River Bridge or through an East River tunnel crossing. And they'll just detonate themselves.
Thousands, tens of thousands of lives, could be snuffed out in a coordinated attack of this nature on the sprawling NYC subway system. And infrastructure could be devastated for months at considerable cost to the economy. Terrorists don't need nuclear material; they don't need biological or chemical weapons. They don't need planes. They need only the will.
Seeing Londoners brave an attack of this nature feels too much like a premonition of things to come. The expressions on the faces of New Yorkers tell me that the fear is real. And if terror revisits US shores, New Yorkers know that they are wearing a bull's eye on their backs.
Short-run, the protection of citizens' lives and liberties should be the most important priority. And, in fact, the protection of life and liberty is the only legitimate role to be played by any governing body. And this requires skilled intelligence, human intelligence. But no security system is 100% effective. And the creation of a police state through the manipulation of citizens' fears is not a solution either, since that merely replaces one form of terrorism for another.
That's why, in the long-run, a fundamental change in direction, in policy, will be necessary.
For now, my deepest, heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved ones. My good wishes to those who are dealing with injury to body and spirit.
Comments welcome. Mentioned at L&P here and Technomaget's Journal