Victory and fear

James Fallows has an good piece in this month’s Atlantic Monthly (teaser only online to non-subscribers, alas). Yesterday’s events in the UK make it a great piece.

Fallows argues that the “war” on terror should be declared over because of the successes the US and its allies have had (dispersing al-Qaeda, foiling plots, etc) but mostly because calling this protracted struggle a war plays right into terrorists’ hands.

Perhaps worst of all, an open-ended war is an open-ended invitation to defeat. Sometime there will be more bombings, shootings, poisonings, and other disruptions in the United States. They will happen in the future because they have happened in the past (Oklahoma City; the Unabomber; the Tylenol poisonings; the Washington, D.C.-area snipers; the still-unsolved anthrax mailings; the countless shootings at schools; and so on). These previous episodes were not caused by Islamic extremists; future ones may well be. In all cases they represent a failure of the government to protect its people. But if they occur while the war is still on, they are enemy “victories,” not misfortunes of the sort that great nations suffer. They are also powerful provocations to another round of hasty reactions.

Hasty reactions. A good tagline for what will surely ensue after yesterday’s anti-terrorism victory. Boing Boing chronicles the new idiocy:

Check out this article from Asheville, NC. “Maya Leoni, who is held by Angela Perez, cries as her mother, A.J. Leoni, pours the last of her drink into the receptacle while in line for the security checkpoint at the Asheville Regional Airport.”

POUR IT INTO A RECEPTACLE? Don’t you think that some of these potentially explosive liquids might be more dangerous when, I don’t know, mixed in a big vat in the middle of an airport?

Christ, why don’t they just have people put their liquids into a big bonfire?

If we overreact to this plot — tremble, retrench, withdraw, not think — it will be little better than if the bombs had gone off.