Airliner scare should propel US to prioritize fight against terror

Are we reawakened yet? Did he get our attention properly focused, this dumbbell Nigerian terrorist who stuffed explosives in his underpants with the hope of bringing the United States a Christmas Day calamity?

Let’s hope so, and let’s hope this, too — that we respond intelligently to his attempt to blow up an airplane and to the boastful threat that pretty soon hundreds of al-Qaida jihadists will be coming at us from Yemen.

We have had one or two signs of alertness from the Obama administration on this, such as a willingness to focus intense scrutiny on airplane passengers coming from or heading to 14 countries that either cheerlead terrorists or are known to have scads of them around. That comes close to profiling, which makes the left shudder — and shuddering leftists are a sure sign that something good is up.

We’ve also had some dancing away from responsibility for wise, planned, technology-savvy management of information. We had a warning about this Nigerian and we fumbled the ball inexcusably.

Randall Larsen, a retired Air Force colonel who now directs the Institute for Homeland Security, says there are really just two ways terrorists can flatten this country, that both entail the use of weapons of mass destruction, that paying attention to them is crucial and that not nearly enough attention has been paid to them.

Larsen says that a single biological attack could kill hundreds of thousands of us. He explains that there is really no way to prevent being hit — it is just too easy to get hold of the pathogens, assemble weapons and smuggle them into our cities.

What we can do is begin taking steps on a federal, state and local basis that would enable us to contain the number killed.

The fact that you hear little discussion about this — especially as compared to all the hullabaloo about global warming — is one indication that not enough is being done. Concerned patriots should beat this drum, and they should also beat the drum for keeping highly enriched uranium out of the hands of terrorists, largely by getting rid of weapons-grade material accumulated by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

That’s a far more doable deed than keeping a nuclear bomb from getting into a city and destroying the place if the terrorists ever get the stuff needed to make one.

Obviously, the war on terror must be fought in many ways, but we can’t give each and every one of these ways equal resources. We ought to have priorities, as Larsen argues in his book, “Our own Worst Enemy.”

It’s an interesting title worth thinking about in this moment of edginess — for we will be our own worst enemy if we don’t start taking the steps most needed to keep us from major catastrophes that could change the nature of this nation forever.

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