From last night’s debate, it seems that Democrats are consumed by the fear that they will not come across as tough. Fareed Zakaria in the Post lays out some great thoughts on this today if you feel like visiting WashingtonPost.com.
The presidential candidates vie with one another to prove they are going to be just as macho and militant as the fiercest Republican. In the South Carolina debate, when candidates were asked how they would respond to another terror strike, they promptly vowed to attack, retaliate and blast the hell out of, well, somebody. Barack Obama, the only one to answer differently, quickly realized his vulnerability and dutifully threatened retaliation as well.
In fact, Obama’s initial response was the right one. He said that the first thing he would do was make sure that the emergency response was effective, then ensure we had the best intelligence possible to figure out who had caused the attack and then move with allies to dismantle the network responsible.
We will never be able to prevent a small group of misfits from planning some terrible act of terrorism. No matter how far-seeing and competent our intelligence and law-enforcement officials, people will always be able to slip through the cracks in a large, open and diverse country. The real test of American leadership is not whether we can make 100 percent sure we prevent the attack but rather how we respond to it.
The real goal should be resilience – how quickly can we bounce back from a disruption? If one day bombs do go off, we must ensure that they cause as little disruption – economic, social, political – as possible. This would deprive the terrorist of his main objective. If we are not terrorized, then in a crucial sense, we have defeated terrorism. Whipping up hysteria about the dangers out there takes us in exactly the opposite direction.