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How to win the war on terror
The answer is simpler than you might think
In light of the recent attacks by terrorists in Paris, you might ask yourself what you can do to prevent yourself from being the victim of such an attack? The unsettling answer to that question is: nothing.
In a free society like ours, there is essentially no protection for an individual against a random assault like the one Paris suffered or America suffered on 9/11. That is the definition and purpose of terrorism. The terrorist's goal is to make you feel afraid and helpless. Whether or not they succeed in that is entirely up to you.
What you can do is reduce your risk in dangerous situations that are statistically more likely to happen to the average person. Stop smoking. Take a walk every day. Use less salt. Wear seatbelts. Don't use your cellphone when you drive. Pay attention to your surroundings any time you are away from home. Lock your doors at home. Notice where the exits are in any building or mode of transportation you enter. Not exciting advice? Maybe not. But it is advice more likely to lower the risks you face every day that are odds on more likely to do you harm than getting blown up by a terrorist.
If you are seriously determined to wage your own personal war against the terrorists of this world, you can do the one thing they most don't want you to do. Keep an open mind when it comes to people who are not like you. Do what you can to protect their freedoms with as much enthusiasm as you would exert to protect your own. Does that put you outside your own comfort zone? Now you're getting it.
Absolutely, positively, do not, under any circumstances, let the fear of terrorism restrict the choices you make about what you do. If you want to and have the resources to travel anywhere on the planet, go. Like the things to do listed earlier, it is only common sense to check the state department's list of unadviseable locations at any point in time. But unless specific dangers are afoot in your destination, go - like the airline says - there's nothing stopping you.
On a local basis, when you see a woman with her head covered or even draped from head to toe in black, or a man in a Paki outfit (a long shirt down to the knee and pants possibly gathered at the ankle) smile at them. The hijackers of 9/11 were dressed like typical Americans. How a person dresses is not what makes them a threat. How they think is what makes them a threat, and you can't discern that by looking.
We won the Cold War without ever being in a declared war against the Soviet Union. We won it by making it too expensive for them to continue pursuing the fight. The Soviet Union collapsed without a single shot being fired specifically between the U.S. and the USSR. We will win the war on terror the same way. In the end, it won't so much be about the battles we won in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan (with total gratitude to those who have fought in those places for us.) It will be about whether or not the terrorists suceeded in changing the way free people live our lives. Did they accomplish getting us to cower in our homes? Or did we continue to take charge of our lives without fear?
Taking charge - it is an American trait, unique in the world for the most part. We are the ones who stepped foot on the moon and invented bubble gum. Show us a thing somebody says we can't do, then stand back and watch us do it. Even with the horrors renewed as we grieve with the people of France, let the world watch us, not just live - but thrive.