In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, I remember people saying, "If we do this, the terrorists will have already won." Often, the conversation would be about proposed security measures, personal or business travel plans, or some military or intelligence activity.
And now a almost a full decade has passed since that terrible day, and I never hear that phrase any more. Even this week, as the 9/11 anniversary approaches, no one talks about terrorists winning because our citizens have changed behavior to be more secure, excluding at airports.
So, after a decade of fighting about appropriate levels of security, have we won? As today's news includes reports of a credible al-Qaida threat to the U.S., I don't know.
I can say that a decade free of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil says something. And certainly, Americans have not been shy about exercising their civil liberties. Recent news reports include union protests in Madison, WI, criminal flash mobs in San Francisco and Philadelphia, and large Tea Party rallies in Washington and elsewhere throughout the nation. In fact, our political leaders have largely resumed the practice of substituting name calling for debate as a way of setting policy. It seemed the term terrorist was reserved for actual terrorists, instead of political opponents, for at least a few years.
At the same time, the economy has eclipsed terrorism as a national concern.
We should all be grateful for the relative safety we have enjoyed for the last 10 years. We can do more, of course, but it is worth remembering that many people have done great work, while remaining in the background. Certainly, it is worth noting that our critical infrastructure has remained reliable.
Certainly, good old-fashioned police work and public awareness have helped. But more sophisticated techniques protected our digital networks and our economy. Leaders in our industry and the allied software fields pioneered the approaches that kept our banking, information, utility, medical, and transportation industries safe.
We may never be able to relax completely, but this 10th anniversary of 9/11 is an appropriate time to reflect on what we have accomplished.