Between Prudence and Paranoia

by Brian Michael Jenkins


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In an atmosphere of fear and alarm, extraordinary security precautions are being taken in the United States as a matter of prudence. That is what terrorism is really all about. Lacking conventional power, extremists use terrorist tactics to create an atmosphere of fear and alarm. It often works. How much security is enough? Extraordinary security measures fulfill the wildest fantasies of the terrorists. They want the mighty to tremble. We see our government now as beleaguered. Extraordinary security measures are a highly visible demonstration of the potency of terrorists. Obviously, we must take precautions, not only against terrorist attacks, but also against psychological effects of terrorism — and of the measures we take in the name of security. The problem is that there is no line between prudence and paranoia; if we let ourselves go, we could work ourselves up into a frenzy of fear that not even the terrorists could improve on.

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