Jay Ambrose: Vigilance is vital

  • Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 12:07 a.m.

Homegrown or foreign-directed, it was terrorism — a coordinated act meant to kill, maim, confuse and frighten at a major American event — that we saw at the Boston Marathon.

There are lessons here. They are not as explicit as they will become as we learn more; but it is clear no matter what that we are vulnerable and that vigilance remains crucial, which doesn’t mean we go into hiding.

We want our bold American lives to continue to be more celebratory than quivering; we don’t want to ban the excitement of a good Patriots Day race or surround every moment with cops. What we do want is to be prudent, cautious, careful, to understand that this 21st century is fraught with brands of peril in some ways different from what we knew before. And we must be prepared to make the harms that come our way less harmful than the evil intended.

In some ways, on top of the inspiring kindness of citizens toward each other, we saw evidence of such preparation in Boston — quick, smooth responses by police, medical teams and others.

Being ready for a disaster is a big part of what we need. There are dangers of biological and chemical and even nuclear terrorist attacks that we can never be assured we can stop, no matter what our military does abroad or how incredibly well our intelligence agents and police perform. Since 9/11, we have thwarted some murderous schemes, but then there was Fort Hood and now there is Boston, and we have to grasp the importance of containing the tragic possibilities.

That containment could be the difference between hundreds of lives lost and tens or even hundreds of thousands. At sessions on the terrorist threat sponsored by the Heritage Foundation in recent years, I’ve been convinced we’re moving forward but not fast enough and with too many hitches.

I’ve liked that President Barack Obama has not practiced what he preached as a candidate in 2008. We still have indefinite detention, we still have Guantanamo, we still have the Patriot Act, we still may have tough interrogations of terrorists.

I have not been impressed by the responses to the tragic shootings we’ve had in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo. I am not against limited magazine capacity for firearms and background checks before their purchase, but I do not think these steps will do boo to prevent more killings. We have 300 million guns in this country and criminals don’t usually secure theirs legally. I think the answer of the National Rifle Association — to park a cop in every school — is also so much hot air. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see why that would not work short of still more steps that would make schools facsimile fortresses, not an America I want.

One thing the Boston Marathon horror illustrates is that guns aren’t needed to attempt mass murders. But the main thing the Boston bombs and killings illustrate is that terrorism is not at an end in America and that we must be ready for the worst even as we take preventive measures and aim to keep the best of our heritage intact.

Email: SpeaktoJay@aol.com.

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