Kingdom of Fear: 9/11 Panel Warns About “Counter-Terrorism Fatigue”
If I am to be honest, I have to point out that the issues I have raised this week are neither secrets nor analysis that is truly groundbreaking. Long before now authorities have used fear to rule the populace. It’s an old tactic and, even though we should have outgrown it, it certainly works because the world is a very scary place.
There are random accidents to fear: falling trees, sinkholes, earthquakes, extreme weather, and disease. There are deliberate, that is to say avoidable, accidents: the innocent bystander murdered by a stray bullet; the family killed by a drunk driver; misunderstandings with police; or an ignored medical problem. Sometimes it seems that there are more ways to die than there are ways to live.
So while the Kingdom of Fear may be alive and well in our politics, the citizenry-at-large may actually be heading in the other direction, at least with respect to terrorism. According to Al Jazeera America the members of the 9/11 panel have noted this trend towards terror complacency and sent a warning to the population.
They issued a new report Tuesday that says complacency threatens national security. They wrote, “Many Americans think that the terrorist threat is waning – that, as a country, we can begin turning back to other concerns…The threat remains grave….”
The report cites the rise of ISIS in the Middle East, a group which national security expert Richard Clarke said on a recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher would love to get an attack on America under their belt. Couple that with the revelations from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – meaning that the world, including America’s enemies, knows “too much” about how we gather intelligence – that has left America seemingly vulnerable.
So does this mean we should go back to the days of color-coded terror alerts and manuals about duct-tape over windows? The terrorist threat was virtually ignored by the second Bush Administration before 9/11 and then used as the motivating force behind NSA expansion, the Patriot Act, and a culture of war from which we have been unable to escape.
The real victory in the “Global War on Terror” was that the Islamic extremists who see America as “the Great Satan” were able to keep us scared for so long. While the members of the 9/11 panel and Richard Clarke are likely correct, this does not mean that we need to live in constant fear of the next “big one.”
There are many reasons to criticize President George W. Bush’s advice post-9/11 to “go shopping,” but there is also a good message in there. One could certainly take that as advice to live one’s life as one normally does, not worried that the sound of every low-flying plane means fiery mayhem is upon us. While our elected officials and those who work in the agencies – like the NSA – should concern themselves with the terror threat, Americans do need to turn our thoughts to other matters that sorely need our attention.