Thursday, January 17, 2008


As in, "Unless ____ happens as planned, the terrorists already will have won." Usually, it's a joke. Sometimes it's not:

We're just a couple of weeks into the New Year and already terrorists have scored two notable victories.

No, these victories were not in the Middle East or Asia, which produce almost daily reports of death and destruction. They were scored in Brussels and Lisbon. What is worse is that the terrorists did not even have to "work" for them.

First, the authorities in Belgium cancelled the traditional New Year's Eve fireworks in Brussels because of security concerns linked to terrorism. Then, a few days later, the Paris-Dakar Rally was cancelled for the first time since its inception in 1979.

... It is not as a fan of the Dakar rally nor as an aficionado of fireworks, but as a free citizen that I am outraged by these developments and by the lack of public discussion about them.

Terrorism is not only about killing. It is about inflicting harm on any number of people to scare a much larger audience, including governments, in order to influence them into taking or abstaining from certain policies or actions. It is about forcing people to change their way of life.

This is exactly what the cancellation of the fireworks and the Dakar Rally achieved, and the repercussions may well be felt for months.

The security of the largest scale sporting events like the Olympics, the World Cup, or the Superbowl is still likely to be ensured, albeit with skyrocketing security budgets. Smaller events, particularly those in more remote areas, may not fare so well.

Clearly, the targeting of social and sporting events by terrorists is hardly a new development - many people remember the assault on the Munich Olympics in 1972.

The threats against the Dakar Rally, however, were fundamentally different because they were directed against the event itself.

Maximum media coverage seems not to have been a primary concern for the terrorists who threatened the race. Had they simply kept quiet and launched their attacks as the event was under way, media coverage would have been incomparably larger.

Her suggested solutions to this are broad and vague. Which makes her conclusion all the more depressing: "In the current state of fear, they do not even have to strike anymore - merely threatening to do so may already do the job."