I've spent the day watching and listening to the news about the attacks in New York and Washington and am having difficulty sorting through the implications they'll have on our lives. Our horror at the physical results of the attack and our anger at whoever was behind it will combine to change this country's actions both internally and externally.
It will probably be weeks before our trauma from these events come together in a national resolve to act. Security and vengeance will mingle within our decisions. Security will take precedence because that's something we can initiate and control. Vengeance will follow amid political turmoil.
The parallel of these events to the Tom Clancy novel in which a terrorist flew a 747 into the Capitol during a State of the Union speech by the President is eerie. I can't help but think everyone in Washington will cringe at every future takeoff from Reagan National Airport. The Pentagon, Capitol Building and White House are extremely close to the takeoff path from Reagan. Security there will become intense.
The further thought that ANY commercial flight could become a weapon, a flying bomb, will definitely impact present airport security arrangements nationally. The flight delays we've presently become accustomed to may seem minor in the future. Airports and airplanes will probably be the extent of any visible security we will see.
Who knows where vengeance and retaliation will lead. Immediately however, we will be much much more accepting of Israel's choices of how it defends itself from terrorists. The videos of rejoicing in parts of the Arab world didn't help any, but our overreaction to that could bring about Arab reaction, to our detriment. They do still control a major portion of the worlds oil supply.
But the most serious results from this attack will be if we develop a bunker mentality (protect ourselves from the world) or too severely curtail our personal freedom in the hope of increasing security. (A Ben Franklin quote, " Those who would give up essential freedom for temporary security, deserve neither freedom or security") We have been remarkably free from terrorist actions in this country. The terrorist violence, blood and death we have seen in the past has been broadcast from overseas. It will be difficult for us to accept the possibility that today's attack may happen again. Almost as difficult as it is to believe this really happening today.
Just as other countries, Israel, Ireland, England and Germany (to name a few) have had to learn to live with terrorist acts, we will also have to accept that there is no way to insure absolute safety from terrorist actions. We will be able to make it difficult for large scale actions such as we've seen today to be carried out again. But we can't insure they will never happen again.
Our test during the next few months will be to see if we will accept living with a degree of uncertainty in this matter as an alternative to sacrificing some of our freedom to obtain to obtain a little more safety. A drumbeat of nightly news combined with a congressional stampede could first frighten and then convince us to accept significant restrictions on our freedoms. If there is not a series of incidents, even little ones, I think we will do OK. But, if there were to be the kind of daily incidents, such as we see in Israel, I wouldn't bet money that we wouldn't sacrifice some freedom for some safety.
As I write this I'm wondering how the picture will look a week from now when you are reading it. I hope things will have calmed down and some objectivity will have returned to the national body.