It has been 16 years today that terrorists launched the most horrendous single attack by a non-state entity on the United States in our history. Many pundits around the country and the world will pen words of wisdom and remembrance about the event. Maybe I’m not so different but would like to put a bit of a twist on the thoughts of the day.
Just like a gambler trying to pull a bluff, every once in a while, he has to be holding all the right cards. The same is true for the terrorist; every once in a while, he has to actually pull it off.
Let’s examine the goal of a terrorist. First, obviously, is to strike terror into the hearts of the intended victims. Remember Johnny who kept crying “Wolf?” He shouted it so many times without a wolf being present that no one believed him anymore. When the wolf finally did arrive the potential for disaster was greatly amplified because the alarm went unheeded. Had 9-11 not happened the potential for future terrorist acts to go unheeded would have been much greater.
As it is, just the fact that 9-11 did occur tells authorities that no indication of a terror event can be ignored. Thus, merely saying that something will happen automatically accomplishes the intended goal. However, every once in a while, the threatened act will have to be carried out, increasing the necessary vigilance of authorities. But what about John Q. Public?
The weeks and months after 9-11 everyone was on an increased level of awareness because the event was still fresh in our minds. However, as time went by the general populous became weary of the vigilance and has become less tolerant of governments’ efforts to keep us save, like the measures now in place at airports. With the rise of the Islamic State and their continued rhetoric of hate, authorities and the public would be ill-advised to ignore the threat.
When some self-puffed imam in the middle east posts on social media for his followers to use whatever means possible to cause massive deaths, there doesn’t have to be a direct link back to the imam for some crazed malcontent to drive a vehicle into a crowd of people. We have seen this happen several times in the past few months. All it takes is for some wingnut to decide he is going to be a hero to his buddies in the Muslim world and he starts planning his entry to the realm of the 72 virgins.
This is where the authorities have to walk a very fine line. We have given up a certain amount of our freedoms for safety and security. Over 200 years ago Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” While I believe the government is responsible to keep us safe, I also believe that it is incumbent on all of us to keep reminding our government that our freedoms are not theirs to take in the name of security. We must all remember that having a government does not relieve us of our responsibility for our own security, and the government should remember that fact as well.