“Are We Safer?”
Three weeks after 9/11, I wrote an article titled “Why This American Feels Safer” in which I noted that, unlike the 2/3s of my fellow countrymen who felt “less safe” than before the atrocities, I felt more secure. Twenty-two years after radical Islam started making war on the United States (counting from the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979), Americans finally took this threat seriously. “The newfound alarm is healthy, the sense of solidarity heartening, the resolve is encouraging.”
At the same time, I expressed a “worry about U.S. constancy and purpose,” fearing that the “United We Stand” spirit and resolve would dissipate over time. Has it, in fact, withered?
Trends over the past ten years are so complex and contradictory that I could argue both sides of the answer. If vigilance has prevented a repetition of 9/11, counterterrorism has reached the point that a White House policy document dares not even refer to terrorism in the title.
That said, overall, I think we are safer, and for one main reason: However much politicians, journalists, and academics obscure the nature of the threat and the proper response to it, 9/11 began a discussion about Islam and Islamism that has not stopped. As the years go by and its quality improves, I am increasingly heartened.