London's Lessons in Counterterrorism
By James Jay Carafano Posted in Foreign Affairs — Comments (0) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
LONDON -- This city’s successes and failures in fighting terrorism have elicited all kinds of lessons. The ones heard the most often make the least sense. There are three lessons not to learn from London, they include:
1) Buy lots of cameras. London is ringed with a government video-surveillance system -- the world famous “ring of steel.” That's great, but it doesn’t mean filming every city street in America is a good idea. The ability to film the event live will not prevent or deter an attack. And there are many ways to investigate after an incident -- means that are probably more cost-effective. At the end of the day, being watched everywhere (a “surveillance society”) won't make us much safer, but it will cost a lot of money and make us feel a lot less free. Technology is not a silver bullet to stopping terrorism.
2) Ban, restrict, control or eliminate something to make us safe from terrorist attacks. It will not work. Car bombs are a case in point. They are among the most popular terrorist weapons because they're “easy.” Almost anyone can get what's needed to make a really deadly bomb; a quick Internet search can explain how to build it, and any driver can deliver one. If the attacker is not particular about whom he kills, any busy street makes a good target.
3) Silence free speech. Terrorists are a fraction of any race, gender, religion, state or group one could possibly imagine -- except other terrorists. The notion that we should let the tyranny of a few dictate how the many live their lives is abhorrent. Rather than trying to ban radical ideas, the best way to beat them is to crush them in the marketplace of ideas. Glorification of terrorism and anti-Semitism should not be allowed to stand unchallenged. Likewise, showing cowardice, fear or regret for being free peoples, for trying to make the world a better place will only embolden, not disarm, terrorists. Neither giving in to terrorists or persecuting anyone who has the same religion, ethnicity or citizenship as a terrorist will make us safer.
The right way to stop terrorist acts is simple: Stop them before they start. Solid counterterrorism operations are the best tool to do that. That is the kind of lessons I will be looking for in London.
[The Heritage Foundation’s James Jay Carafano will be blogging on RedState about his trip to London to study counterterrorism measures.]