Give Terrorists a Great Big Yawn

The news brings word of another spate of terrorist bombings in London. Two weeks to the day from the after batch, another four have gone off in the Underground and on a bus. Luckily, this time there weren't any injuries. Early reports indicate that the bombs didn't go off because of a poor plastique mixture leaving only the detonators to make some bangs and scare the bejeezus out of people.

I continue to be impressed at the reaction of Londoners. They seem to take it in stride and not make it into too big a deal. I'm listening to traffic reports from London and they are already opening streets and tube stations, only hours after the hullabaloo. The news actually takes time for commercials, unlike the breathless, wall-to-wall coverage the American media provides. I'm not usually a big fan of commercials, but at times like these they are oddly comforting.

I watched Tony Blair make his obligatory statement and was impressed at the difference between his calm and measured response versus King George's stunned in the headlights reaction on September 11 - or for that matter his almost daily speeches since. Instead of vowing war and international manhunts he simply said he and his government had things under control, he would try to get to the bottom of it, and that people should just go about their business lest the terrorists get what they want - to terrorize people.

That last bit can't be underestimated. Terrorists don't actually have to do anything now. They can just threaten and get the same result. A little nudge like today's now and again is enough to keep terror in the wind where it can continue to scare people. The terrorists know that scared people don't concentrate on trying to catch them, they run around doing things like creating huge, unwieldy Homeland Security Departments, flashing meaningless color-coded bars on television, and passing dubious security bills like the un-Patriot Act. Despite all his tough talk about this being war, I'm afraid our Commander and Scaredy Cat isn't doing anything but roiling the waters to keep our attention focused on that instead of all the other things we should be concentrating on - including doing something useful about terrorist attacks.

I'm of a mind that changing our foreign policy would be a good thing, but I'm also not enough of a Pollyanna to think that would make the terrorist problem go away. Nutcases are nutcases and by definition wouldn't respond to such a clear cause and effect mechanism. Whether the US wholeheartedly supported Islamic extremists or not is of little consequence. They would continue to do what they do. At the same time, I also believe that permanently warping our society to make them "easier" to catch isn't a worthwhile strategy either. We don't need more security cameras (it hasn't stopped bombers in well-watched London). We don't need to change our laws so that some homegrown government nutcase can ask the library when I lasted checked out a copy of Little House on the Prairie. We didn't need to reorganize hundreds of dense bureaucracies into a single, even-denser mega-bureaucracy like Homeland Insecurity. We don't need to declare war on the rest of the world. And, we don't need to spend billions of dollars trying to make travel secure when by definition, it can't be. We need common sense. We need a little courage in the face of some terrible bullies. And, we need to deal with terrorists plots as they come, shutting them down ahead of time when possible and finding and punishing them after the fact if necessary.

Despite Shrub's contention that the world is a different place now - one that requires an ongoing "war on terrorism" - it isn't. There have always been terrorists and there probably always will be. I'd like to call on all Americans to send their most sincere sympathies to our British brethren, help them catch the evil-doers if we can, and take a page from their handling of the situation. It's time for Americans to grow a backbone and get on with the business of being Americans, which is the surest path to security we could possible take.

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Thursday, July 21, 2005

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