I didn’t sleep well on Monday night. Images of the horrific events that occurred at the Boston Marathon continued to flash in my mind’s eye as the sudden sound of the blast and the screams echoed in my head. The realization that America had suffered its fourth terrorist attack since the Oklahoma City bombing began to take hold.
We have been told that the Marathon was a “soft target”, meaning that while there was a vast police presence and security precautions had been taken, it was still vulnerable. In fact, every shopping mall, sporting event, movie theater, parade, hotel, park and concert, etc. are “soft targets”. There is only so much that can be done to prevent such an attack in an open society. In fact, even in societies that are considerably more restrictive than ours, determined terrorists who are willing to give their life for “the cause”, succeed.
The important question for us to ask is; “how does a terrorist know that he has succeeded?” Is it just the blast and the causality count that is the determining factor? Is it the number of minutes or column inches dedicated to it in our news media that is the determining factor? Is it the number of speeches and remarks from our leaders that is the determining factor? In fact, it is none of these.
In order for an act of terrorism to succeed we have to be terrorized. I don’t mean at the instant or even hours and days after the act. I mean, we have to feel the need to change our lives over the long term. 9/11 was a successful act of terrorism, not only based on the number of people killed or the value of the property damage, but because it has forever changed the way we live. We have a new Cabinet level post, air travel is far more restrictive and the Patriot Act has intruded on our personal liberties.
What will be the long term impact of the bombing at the Boston Marathon? Will it restrict our access to “soft targets” in ways that are intrusive and make this a far less open society? If so, the bombing at the Boston Marathon was a successful terrorist act. What are we as Americans willing to allow the terrorists to dictate and take from us? It’s up to us.