Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2001 / 29 Tishrei, 5762
Don't get me wrong. Part of the reason that I am so certain that we have little to fear is that so many of us are on an unprecedented level of alert. However, I feel strongly that when that when a healthy awareness of potential dangers is transformed into irrational and self-destructive panic (as I believe is very close to happening), that the terrorists win the war, even without waging battle.
In fact, it seems obvious to me that virtually the only weapon left in the arsenal of these terrorists is the ability to instill a debilitating and confidence-sapping anxiety in us.
Since September 11th, the perpetrators of the attacks on America have already lost: the element of surprise, our apathy, the luxury of time to plan an assault, the freedom of many of their associates and sympathizers in this country, much of their bank roll, the "support" of several suspect states, an unharassed/bombed leadership, and the handcuffs of political correctness on our intelligence and law enforcement officials.
Even with all of those important factors on their side, it still took them years to pull off a well coordinated, but rather unsophisticated attack, that, while obviously horrible and unacceptable, could have been much worse and is now fairly easy to prevent from happening again. It is not as if these terrorists figured out a way to maneuver our planes into buildings by remote control from the safety and obscurity of the ground. They simply took advantage of a rather blatant vulnerability in our system in a way that caused all of those directly involved to lose their own lives. If they were really as formidable as we currently seem to think of them, wouldn't they have attacked us during the post-election chaos of less than a year ago when we didn't know who our next President would be, had an administration weak on terrorism, and would have been ill-prepared to respond? Frankly, I am not that impressed.
It is quite natural for human beings to bestow on to those that commit an act the power and magnitude of the deed itself. This is what has caused the vast majority of Americans to incorrectly believe that John Kennedy was assassinated by a vast and evil conspiracy rather than by one lone nut/loser named Lee Harvey Oswald. We just cannot seem to conceive that such a puny force could cause so much damage.
In the same way we now seem to be vastly overestimating these terrorists because they were able to create such previously unimaginable destruction. To hear some of the theories that have been put forward as to what we can expect next, you would almost believe that these terrorists have magic powers, or at least an expertise in areas that has never been previously apparent or currently logical.
Thankfully, this is NOT Nazi Germany that we are up against. There is no Werner von Braun in bin Laden's brain trust. In fact, it has even been reported that bin Laden is so ill informed that he actually thought that we would be very hesitant to respond to these attacks. It cannot be over emphasized that bin Laden and his people live in caves!
While it is always dangerous to underestimate your enemies, this may be the rare occasion where it is far more devastating to overestimate them because it allows them to retain their only real power. If we did not so grossly overrate the abilities of these terrorists, bin Laden's post-retaliation claims that we will never "dream of security" again and his advice to Muslims in America to stay off of airplanes and out of tall buildings, would be seen as what they are: the desperate words of a scared man who has nothing to fight back with except some hollow claims whose sole intention is to scare and intimidate us.
In this way bin laden is not unlike the Wizard of Oz who ruled simply on the illusion of his powers, his mythical reputation, and the ability to inject irrational fear in others. Without that capacity to blow smoke (I am always much more wary of the guy who doesn't talk than the guy who is making boasts he can't back up) bin Laden would be revealed for what he really is: an evil Superman now currently infected with a deadly kryptonite virus.
As for the recent Anthrax scares, they seem to me to represent the exception that proves the rule. If this is indeed an organized effort by the forces of bin Laden, it has been remarkably feckless and poorly thought out. Anthrax is not contagious, is difficult to contract, and is fairly easily treated. We even have a vaccine for it. While one death is a tragedy, it seems that the authorities have acted quickly enough to prevent any further loses of life and, when you consider we are a nation of 280 million people, those currently exposed to the disease is an incredibly tiny number. If this was an attempt to strike back at us, except for the psychological impact that it has regrettably had on many of us, it was pathetic at best.
While it is certainly possible or even likely that, if only for symbolic purposes, some "small" act of terrorism will be attempted, I doubt even that (despite what the FBI, in a butt-covering statement, has said) is 100% certain. After all, post-September 11th, hasn't the "threshold" for giving up one's life for their cause risen significantly? It would seem to me that bombing a mere shopping mall and killing only a few people no longer would appear to be worth losing ones own life over. Perhaps a case of "Terrorist Envy" will break out and there will be a fear of meeting Allah and having "only" taken a small number of the American Infidels with you.
I am glad that our government is worried about potential further assaults on our country. That is one of the few useful functions of government. However, I am not going to be losing any sleep or changing my behavior. History has shown that the only time we should be really concerned about such eventualities is when nobody else is.
While we paid an extremely heavy price for this small benefit, there is no doubt that this indifference does not currently exist. Let's not make the situation so much worse than it needs to be by defeating ourselves. September 11th was horrendous, but nothing like it will be repeated any time soon.
I'll bet bin Laden's life on
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