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Terrorism: Where Do We Go From Here?

In little more than an hour, on September 11, of last year, thousands of individuals lost their lives at the hands of terrorists using nothing more than box cutters and sheer will and determination. It was a stunning victory for the terrorists, but the harshest lesson America ever had to learn. One of the effects of that infamous day was the stark realization that life as it existed prior to 8:46 a.m. would be forever changed. Until September 11, the average American was statistically more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightening than an act of terrorism.

And now, almost one year later, American citizens on a daily basis find themselves sorting through a barrage of sobering predictions of future terrorist attacks, and wondering whether or not the national level of alert has been elevated from its current status of “code yellow,” (meaning a significant risk of attack), to another color signifying a different risk level. The reality is that the threat of terrorism is ever present and that the predictable, traditional methods of warfare no longer apply.

Faced with this knowledge, individuals may become psychologically disarmed, causing a tremendous degree of fear and insecurity. Security is an ancient need for humans, a basic rung on the ladder of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It is through this undermining of a populace’s sense of security, instilling a chronic state of fear, that terrorism accomplishes its insidious purpose.

The terrorists of September 11 quickly realized that we live in a world filled with ordinary things having extraordinary potential. This realization by the terrorists of America’s many vulnerabilities, facilitated their planning and ultimate actions.

It is a matter of fact that the United States is the world’s sole surviving superpower and that Americans have historically not been accustomed to being the injured party. However, it is because of these things that America has a certain responsibility to replace a sense of arrogance and invincibility with humility and introspection.


“Kill one, frighten
one thousand.”

— Sun Tzu

We must be mindful of the fact that the first step in eradicating all types of terrorism, is to recognize that terrorism is merely a response, however morally abhorrent and senseless it may appear. The failure to adequately address and resolve the root causes of terrorism, will only produce an unlimited supply of individuals willing to become human bombs, engaging in senseless acts of human destruction.

It is simply delusional to believe that the root causes of terrorism will be addressed in any proposed anti-terrorism package, aimed at improving domestic security, even if the approximated cost is 29 billion dollars. Nor will better coordination between intelligence and law enforcement agencies and any military successes experienced thus far by various countries address the root causes. These things, albeit necessary, are neither helpful in understanding the problem of terrorism nor in solving it.

These are uncertain times. However, in recognizing this, we cannot give into the natural tendency of allowing fear to prevail, but remain vigilant and on guard, never becoming complacent in our thinking. There will come calmer moments and a time when the imagination of terrorists will no longer surpass that of the intelligence community. Perhaps even a time when the root causes of terrorism have been adequately addressed and replaced with peace.

However, until then, quite possibly one of the harshest lessons learned in the midst of the tragic events of September 11, comes from realizing that life is fragile and too often unpredictable. It is in this realization that we must not make decisions stemming from fear, but from courage. All those individuals who selflessly lost their lives in the hope that others would be saved, are testament to this. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the will to go on in the presence of fear. And so we must.

Carla J. Abodalo

Carla J. Abodalo
is an instructor in sociology and criminology.

 

 
reporter contents : : albright college