Thursday, July 07, 2005

God Save the Queen

Slate's coverage of the London terrorist attacks includes a compelling essay criticizing Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's decision to raise America's terror alert status. To wit:

Without receiving any new credible intelligence, he raised DHS's already discredited color alert to orange, saying he wanted to wake up mass transit authorities. In the process, he gave ever-jittery TV anchors one more reason to prattle on about danger in the United States, even though today's bombings occurred in a different country thousands of miles away and were, comparatively speaking, not an operational success for the jihadists who seem likely to have been behind them.

Perhaps it bears repeating that terrorists seek to alter the way in which we lead our lives, to close open societies, and to turn liberals into authoritarians. ...

At the risk of seeming callous, the other message Chertoff should have sent is that Americans need to toughen up a bit. Be vigilant; don't panic. Look at how the British are handling these attacks. Their endurance of the Irish Republican Army's 30-year terror campaign has made them masters at picking up the pieces after an attack and moving on. Did they institute a national alert today? No. Did they close down the subways indefinitely? No.

Righto. Quit scaring my mother and keep a stiff upper lip. There's a difference between vigilance and paranoia. Freedom invites risk, and though the price is often terrible--more terrible, Americans know, than what the British paid today--it's a price worth paying. For what is the alternative?

That said, I do have a visceral need for a little ass-kicking right about now. Listening today to Tony Blair and yes, George W. Bush, I was reminded that there is good and evil in the world, and that we are on the side of good, flawed though our response to evil may sometimes be.


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