…the whole plethora of government anti-terror policies are a bust: surveillance of the citizenry, sweeping up zillions of gigabytes of data, gratuitously invasive airport security measures, detention without due process of material witnesses as well as enemy combatants captured far away from the homeland, renditioning and torture, to say nothing of preventive wars and sustained occupations that kill tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians. None of this can really stop a dedicated nut from destroying the lives of large numbers of people.
If only Bush and Obama had responded to such incidents not with appeals to the necessity of the war on terrorism and their broad executive power, but with declarations that freedom must not be compromised in an attempt to crusade against extremism, terrorism, or evil. The irony of the trillions spent, the millions of lives ruined, and the priceless civil liberties turned upside down in the global war on terror that has dominated U.S. policy for the last decade is not just that the policies undertaken have mostly been counterproductive; it is that nothing at all can stop a determined terrorist with political grievances, whatever they might be, from committing mayhem on a mass scale. The other side of the irony is that the danger still does not rise nearly to a level that might excuse the panic.