Never totally safe, but we’re safer
“We are not safe,” the 9/11 Commission warned last week, criticizing breakdowns in United States’ intelligence capabilities as if we could ever be completely protected against the random viciousness of terrorism.
The real question should be, “Are we safer now?” And the answer is yes.
Let’s first examine reasons we may not feel safer in a post-9/11 world:
– The war in Iraq has caused an increase in anti-American sentiment and helped recruitment by terrorist organizations.
– Airport security has been turned over to a government bureaucracy, which ultimately has no accountability to the people it serves – the airline industry and its passengers.
– Osama bin Laden remains at large.
All three are significant challenges for the current Bush administration and for the winner of the Nov. 2 election.
The difference today, however, is that the U.S. has taken the offensive in the war on terrorism. Bush will certainly continue his aggressive stance; that course is set. For John Kerry, who may well set a different agenda for Iraq, there should also be no question of the U.S. going back to its passive, reactionary attitude toward terrorism.
The 9/11 Commission’s report was clear that such an attitude for many years simply encouraged international terrorists to plot bigger and more destructive schemes. If Kerry even hints at wavering there, he will not win the Oval Office.
Airport security is much improved and will remain at a heightened state for the foreseeable future. Ultimately, it must be privatized again. By far the biggest difference now is the billions of dollars thrown at security. Competitive firms would do more with less.
As for Osama bin Laden, his abillity to elude capture should be a major embarrasment to the U.S. intelligence community. But the 9/11 Commission’s main recommendation, for a Cabinet-level authority over all intelligence-gathering operations, is a needless layer of bureaucracy. Do the job or, like George Tenet, be looking for a new one.
Even with bin Laden still at large, however, the al-Qaida network has been severely damaged and can no longer operate internationally with impugnity.
No, we are not safe. But we’re no longer sitting idly waiting for terrorism to strike.