How to Think About Terrorism
Will better intelligence and technology allow the United States to anticipate future terrorist attacks? History does not offer much reason for optimism, but there are steps we can take now.
In the aftermath of September 11, many Americans have embraced the belief, or at least the hope, that acts of terror can be prevented in the future. More-advanced technologies, better-trained people, and better-organized bureaucracies, it is thought, will shield us from danger by revealing the future more clearly than America’s intelligence agencies were able to do before the Al Qaeda attacks. This hope goes naturally with the traditional “can-do” ethos of American culture. A little hard thinking shows the expectation to be futile, but a great deal more thought is required if we are to understand what we can reasonably hope to accomplish in combating future terrorism.
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Richard K. Betts, professor and director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, was a member of the National Commission on Terrorism. Among his books are Surprise Attack (1982), Nuclear Blackmail and Nuclear Balance (1987), Soldiers, Statesmen, and Cold War Crises (1991), Military Readiness (1995), and Paradoxes of Strategic Intelligence (2003).more from this author >>