April 5, 2004
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Even before terrorists struck four trains in Madrid - with
that favorite weapon of cowards everywhere, the bomb - it had
becoming chillingly apparent that we had to contemplate the
unthinkable: What will we do if there's another Sept. 11?
A key first step is thinking through how we should respond to
attacks beforehand. 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 that it's the Bush
administration's fault. The $40.4 billion on homeland security that
the president proposed to spend next year, we'll be told, wasn't
But few problems can be solved by money alone. The war on terror is
a strategic one - and at the strategic level, thought must precede
action. Spending too much, too fast on programs that aren't well
thought out would be wasteful and counterproductive.
We know, for example, that we need to do a better job spending the
money we've already allocated to emergency responders. A study
recently cited in Time magazine found that most grants to state and
local governments have been distributed "with no regard for the
threats, vulnerabilities and potential consequences faced by each
region." We need a system that will spend our money efficiently and
Trade safety for civil liberties. Calls for new
security measures that require temporary impositions on basic civil
liberties will surely be heard. This argument is almost devoid of
logic. During the Cold War, the United States managed to endure a
protracted struggle against a global superpower for decades without
trashing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It's hard to see
how a small band of religious extremists merit suspension of the
liberties that generations fought to preserve.
On the other hand, Americans should beware 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. 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. Critics might offer any
number of reasons, but we generally should dismiss these assertions
out of hand. No nation is perfect, but our country strives to be a
force for good in the world. Some may not like American politics or
policy - or our pop music, for that matter - but nothing
the United States has done justifies terrorist acts aimed against
Still, no one should be surprised if the blame for attacks on
Americans is pinned on Americans. The "enemy is us" argument was a
refrain heard more than once after Sept. 11. That's to be expected.
Reflection, criticism and reassessment are part of democracy. They
are part of what makes for a strong and vibrant civil society - but
we shouldn't let them become an excuse for inaction, retrenchment
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. The United States succeeded during the Cold
War because it held firm, stuck to a long-term strategy that
invested in security, protected civil liberties and promoted
economic growth. The nation entered into a global war on terrorism
trying to follow a similar path, and we should stick to it.
We can be sure more terrorist attacks on the United States are on
their way. They may come soon or years in the future. After all, we
know it took between five to seven years to perpetrate the Sept. 11
attacks. They may be travelers from abroad or people who have been
living here for years, perhaps American citizens - but they
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.
James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for defense and
homeland security at The Heritage Foundation .
First appeared on FoxNews.com
Even before terrorists struck four trains in Madrid — with that favorite weapon of cowards everywhere, the bomb — it had becoming chillingly apparent that we had to contemplate the unthinkable: What will we do if there's another Sept. 11?
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, E. W. Richardson Fellow, and Director
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