Tornados happen. Floods happen. Earthquakes happen. Wildfires happen. Car crashes happen. Mass shootings and terrorist attacks happen–like in the airport at Istanbul.
What?! Terrorist attacks happen? Yes, and more will certainly come. So what do we do about it?
Do people fear natural disasters? Some do, some more than others. Do they fear mass shooters and terrorists? Many more do, no doubt. Which is why they demand the government do something about it and politicians pander to those fears. In his 1933 inaugural speech, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said,
He spoke then of the people’s financial fears in the depths of the Great Depression, not of terrorism. But the notion applies well to our current state of affairs.
People who choose or who must live in the Tornado Belt have basement shelters, for the most part. People who live in areas prone to floods are prohibited by zoning laws from building other than playgrounds, parks and athletic fields in floodplains. People who live in areas known to be subject to earthquake must live and work in buildings that can survive them. New construction in Florida now must include roofs tied to the foundation and homes able to survive 160 mph winds of hurricanes. Trees and brush can be cleared around homes and building materials can be more fire-resistant. Still, nothing can prevent natural disasters, only lessen the consequences. People go on with their lives, unafraid of such potential catastrophes. In the wake of them, they rebuild–thankful their lives were spared even if their homes were not.
Few people stop driving cars in fear of crashes, despite the fact that they are far more likely to die or be seriously injured in one than be the victim of a terrorist attack. Few people stop going to the movies, to shopping malls, to airports, to stadiums, to work or to other places where masses of people congregate. Yet they still fear or at least demand government action to stop the terrorist attacks.
For decades, if not centuries, there have been those who would impose their will on others by the tactics of terror. They’re seldom successful in the long run. You can study the history of such movements on every continent of the world–save Antarctica. But our present concern is with ISIS and its fellow extremists extolling a perverted form of Islam as their guide. It’s only rarely mentioned that the goal of ISIS is to bring about the end of days in an apocalyptic war in the Middle East. As that goal eludes them, they become more desperate. Their finances have been diminished. They are losing at large scale warfare. They have lost Fallujah. White hat hackers are taking over websites and twitter accounts to mock or discredit them. In time, they will fade from existence and become an historical footnote of failure. But what should we do now, while the attacks continue?
The response of Turkey, in contrast to that of Belgium is instructive. The airport in Brussels remained closed for a week after the attack there. The airport in Istanbul has reopened in something like 14 hours, as cleanup and repairs progress. The more we cower in fear, the more we offer prescriptions for yet more ineffective screening such as, for example, inspections of all vehicles on roads headed toward airports once they get within a mile or two of the terminal?
In other words, consider the odds. We are all far more likely to die in any of those natural disasters than to even be in a 10 mile vicinity of a terrorist attack. Yes, continue going after ISIS and their ilk. Just stop being afraid and stop asking the government to do stuff that won’t work and will cost prodigious amounts of money that could be better spent on things that do–schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, etc.