How Terrorism Wins – Part II
Fareed Zakaria provides the second installment in how terrorists win (the example of the Met deciding not to show art depicting the prophet Mohammed being the first):
In responding to the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein voiced the feelings of many when she said that to prevent such situations, “I’d rather overreact than underreact.” This appears to be the consensus view in Washington, but it is quite wrong. The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn’t work. Alas, this one worked very well.
He is exactly right. Terrorism is all about effecting change through the threat of or use of violence. It is a tool of the weak that can be devastatingly effective if those at whom it is aimed overreact. The aim may be political change. The aim may be economic change. Or terrorists may be satisfied with any change they can effect through their actions which makes life miserable for those at whom it is aimed. As Zakaria points out, given our response, the latest terrorist failure is, in fact, a win. We’re jumping through our collective arses trying to react to the threat and pretty much settling on making air travel more miserable for everyone.
Overreacting to terrorist attacks plays into al-Qaeda’s hands. It also provokes responses that are likely to be large-scale, expensive, ineffective and possibly counterproductive. More screening for every passenger makes no sense. When searching for needles in haystacks, adding hay doesn’t help. What’s needed is a larger, more robust watch list that is instantly available to all relevant government agencies. Almost 2 million people travel on planes in the United States every day. We need to isolate the tiny percentage of suspicious characters and search them, not cause needless fear in everyone else.
We know, to this point the one common thread that links these “needles” and separates them from the “hay”. But we continue to resist using that as a discriminator as we refine our security searches because, apparently, discrimination (aka “profiling”) is a much worse political sin than getting airliners with 300 souls on board blown out of the sky.
It simply defies common sense.