Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Since 9/11 many of us have been waiting for the next shoe to drop. Perhaps the truly amazing story is how successful law enforcement has been in actively or passively, directly or indirectly preventing another major event until now; but we all knew it would come and now it has.
The expected array of questions arise including as always where was the intelligence failure? (This question is like asking why can’t the police prevent all robberies and murders! They can’t prevent everything unless we find a way to change human nature.) While at this point no one appears to know if the Boston Marathon terrorist incident was the action of an individual or a group; a domestic or foreign motivated source; a deranged psychopath; or a potential serial bomber. What is clear is that the violent attack deliberately targeted one of America’s most peaceful, spring sporting events; and for no apparent reason—at least up to this time.
As is the lesson from previous incidents in the U.S., Britain, Israel and elsewhere, life must go on. New and additional precautions and vigilance must be instituted, but not ones which will encumber the freedoms which are an integral part of American democratic life. Heightened alerts and caution must not translate into restrictions on individual rights and freedoms. No demented individual or group or political enemy must be able to believe that they achieved any of their goals as a results of the horror that was committed in Boston.
Similarly, it is clear that all the resources of the finest crime fighting, anti-terrorist organizations in the world cannot prevent all potential terrorist activities. While the United States possess outstanding law-enforcement resources, no democracy can successfully restrict public activities in way that will guarantee that terrorist attacks will not re-occur. Deterrence and vigilance prevented numerous potential incidents over the past almost 12 years; and these are only the events about which we are informed. Criminal and sick minds will always be able to find ways to circumvent even the finest prevention models.
We are confident that law enforcement efforts will produce an accounting of what, how, and why this incident occurred. Hopefully, they will apprehend the perpetrators. Citizens continue on with their lives. As we reach out to the victims and we also soldier on.