The harder our society struggles against terrorism, the worse it gets. Like a toy finger trap, it’s exasperating. So what’s the smart response?
Anybody with a mission (good or bad) responds in ways that gets them to their goal. It’s human nature. So just imagine how royally terrorists are rewarded when the entire Western world is terrorized by one horrible crime. The more random, evil, and telegenic it is, the more society reacts…and, to the terrorists, the more satisfying the result.
In Brussels, three evil people die to kill 32. To the terrorists, the payoff for their cause is not the body count. It’s the reaction: They shut down a capital city and its airport, change the tenor of politics in countries they consider their enemy, and radicalize the world so powerfully that the over-the-top reaction of 500 million people (who lost 32 innocent victims) results in fear-powered policies…which leads, ultimately, to more angry conscripts for the terrorists’ cause. If you’re a terrorist, that’s not a bad day’s work.
Now imagine this alternate scenario: Terrorists detonate a bomb. News coverage comes and goes in a day, people mourn their loss, the bad guys are killed or captured, and no one lets it impact their lives beyond that. Collectively, we would have neutered the terrorists — denying them their rewards and incentives. Rather than a spiral into more and more terror, we’d see a spiral toward peace and stability.
Of course, this would never happen. But it’s a reminder that by confusing fear and risk — and overreacting to any terrorist event — can needlessly throw gas onto their fire.
Will there continue to be terrorist events? Yes. Will I still travel, knowing that I’m absorbing the risk that I may lose that lottery? Yes. (In fact, today I’m flying off for two experience-filled months in Europe.) Will I take foolish risks? Of course not. Will I allow myself to be terrorized? Hell no.
If there is a “War on Terror,” then together, we are combatants. And so far, we’ve chosen a losing strategy. What if we fight back by simply not being terrorized? Maybe our “burden” in this struggle is to live life without fear. If we refuse to be terrorized, they lose…and we win.