Here’s what we should be saying to people who attack us, and to those who panic when we are attacked.
Actually, it’s quite easy to attack us. And we like it that way. That’s what freedom is. We’re not going to defend every street corner and mall with armed guards. No, that would be a victory for you.
What we’re going to do is go about our business. And if you take a gun and kill a bunch of people (which any six-year-old can do), then so be it. If you fly a plane into a building or blow up a train, so be it. We will hunt you, and you will be dealt with. But some short time later nobody will care about you.
Everyone knows it’s easy to attack a wide-open target. Civilians are easy prey. This will never change, and it shouldn’t. So if you’re stupid enough to want to do something that is trivially easy to accomplish (like pushing a child down a staircase), then I’m sorry for you. But you won’t get much reaction from us.
We know the risks our openness exposes us to, and we will forget your meaningless attack moments after it occurs. Freedom does make us vulnerable, but it also makes us resilient.
Risk is often calculated as Probability x Impact. As such, what I’m speaking of here is a colossal reduction in impact (and thus, risk).
Think about what happened in September of 2001. What was lost? 3,000 lives? A couple of buildings. Imagine what would have happened if our wound level matched that actual loss instead of being thousands of times more. Building value rounds down to zero, and the loss of 3,000 people, while tragic, doesn’t nearly compare to how many we lose constantly with no effect on morale whatsoever.
Here’s an alternative response to 9/11:
Great, you knocked down two buildings. Cleanup and reconstruction are already underway. You also killed 3,000 Americans. That’s unfortunate, but we lost 86,000 people last year to car accidents, so I think we’ll be ok. In fact, other than sending the SEALs to haunt your dreams until you’ve faced justice, you haven’t actually accomplished much. Sleep well.
In short, if we can keep terror wounds minimized to the actual losses rather than adding an infinite degree of suffering to them (which then converts to impact), we actually lower our risk infinitely more than through prevention.
In short, an open society improves security by improving resilience, not by obsessing over prevention.