The point of terrorism is terror

Great intro to Fareed Zakaria's column in the Post today.

In responding to the attempted bombing of an airlineron Christmas Day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein voiced the feelings of many when she said that to prevent such situations, "I'd rather overreact than underreact." This appears to be the consensus view in Washington, but it is quite wrong. The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn't work. Alas, this one worked very well.

This undending obsession with the underwear bomber is, in fact, giving the terrorists just the kind of victory they are hoping for without actually harming a single American.  He goes on to make a point I've seen some other places, too, that the nature of this attack actually shows the relative weakness of Al Qaeda.  Yet, by over-reacting, we are giving them the strategic victory that they are increasingly unable to pull-off tactically.  We should stop.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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