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April 20, 2013

Terror lives on, and there's no end in sight


Is this truly our inevitable future? Isn’t there anything that can be done?

Well, I suppose we could start training children in kindergarten or first grade to recognize and avoid suspicious packages, and we could take note of — or profile — anyone who might look the least bit uneasy or different. The Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign is a first step in that direction.

“You grow up internalizing this thought that there might be terrorists and attacks anywhere and everywhere,” Yoram Peri, director of the Institute of Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, told USA Today. “You walk differently, you look to the sides, you look for people who might be terrorists, you look for packages. You’re more aware, that’s clear.”

In Israel, where Peri grew up, suicide bombings and explosive devices were a way of life. The explosion my daughter heard was the 100th Palestinian suicide bombing since September 2000.

There are far fewer explosions now in Jerusalem. But relative safety has come at a price, both emotional and financial. An effective, if controversial, wall was erected. Ethnic profiling is the norm, terrorist leaders have been killed, a feeling of fatalism is often prevalent, and everywhere there are private security guards protecting businesses.

“Israelis were willing to pay for that,” Peri said. “Coffee shops asked you to pay an extra Shekel (about 28 American cents) for the guard in your check. It was done voluntarily.”

But even if we were willing to do all that in America, there’s no way we could, given the size of this country and its inexhaustible wealth of “soft targets.”

We live in a time when step-by-step bomb-making instructions are easy to find on the Internet, lethal weapons are readily available, and voracious media coverage guarantees that a delusional non-entity can become infamous or a ragtag terrorist organization can achieve notoriety.

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