We must not fear terrorism

Terrorist groups act on the idea that if they can scare you enough, you will support decisions and policies that work against your interests. So, too, do politicians who continually stoke fears over terrorism. The outcome from either effort can be a loss of liberty as populations clamor for more security, more restrictions, and more intrusions on their personal freedoms. When terrorists or politicians tell you to be afraid, tell them to get lost.

Osama bin Laden is dead. Mohammed Atef is dead. Anwar al Awlaki is dead. Al Qaeda is diminished. Boko Haram is diminished. Al Shabaab is no longer in control of Somalia. ISIS has lost nearly every part of Iraq and its defenses in ar-Raqqa have been breached (as I write this on July 7, 2017). There is a lesson here for everyone: When terrorist groups rise up like a loose nail, the international community, led by the United States, hammers them flat. Americans are far more likely to die from a car accident or a gun accident than by an act of terror. So, buckle up, secure your unloaded guns, and calm your fears. We are winning. We will continue to win.

There is, additionally, something else we can do to reduce our risk. All terrorist groups rise up in safe havens inside nations that suffer from poor governance. Nations with small and weak governments cannot meet their responsibility to exercise a monopoly on the use of force, so armed groups with evil intentions are free to form in the spaces those governments cannot reach. It is no accident that al Qaeda moved to Afghanistan and remains now in Pakistan. It is no accident that al Shabaab formed in Somalia after years of chaos. It is no accident that ISIS rose up in eastern Syria three years after the start of the Syrian civil war. President Trump and Republicans generally decry the idea of “nation building.” However, strong nations, which our nation-building efforts aim to create, do not allow terrorist groups to occupy their soil. Improving the governance of weaker nations is the surest way to avoid the rise of more terrorist groups. We must work with the international community to close the spaces that allow these groups to form.