Review – A. Carter, J. Deutch and P. Zelikow: "Catastrophic Terrorism: Tackling the New Danger"

If a catastrophic event such as the use of a nuclear or poison gas weapon occurred in the United Sates, I believe that there would be a defining moment that would cast “our past and future” into a “before and after.” I also believe that the American people would demand the punishment of not only those responsible but also the decision-makers that failed to prevent it from happening. As you stated before about the Surface Navy, “we are quite unforgiving of our own.” I believe that this is the case with the average American. I believe that the American people perceive their risk level concerning catastrophic events is minimal and that such an event would be a rude awakening to how vulnerable we really are.

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Yet it is hard to convince people of such vulnerability until problems arise. There is some proper trade-offs between risk and freedom. We all know that airplanes will fall out of the sky and kill people in the future yet we would be most unhappy if the government told us the risk was too high and we could not fly anymore. We would have to experience a marked increase in plane failure before we would adjust our habits. The fact that we have prevented gross terrorist acts to date almost works against us getting this kind of understanding from the public.

If we were unable to use telephones or cell phones, we would feel shipwrecked. We cannot see ourselves without email, internet, faxes, voicemail or pager services. We could not imagine thousands of people killed during the Macy’s Christmas Day parade. If these catastrophic events occurred do to either a hurricane or an earthquake, we would morn but we cannot hold Mother Nature accountable. If these events resulted from a computer virus or poison gas, the American Public would demand accountability. (By accountability, I am talking about the decision-makers that most feel should be aware of and taking action to protect the public from such intentions) Once Americans feel that terrorism is hitting to close to home anything is possible.

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by Kenneth Rice