Preparing for the Next Attack

Courtesy Reuters


In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, America has been mourning its dead and tending to its wounded. But the country also has been building up an angry resolve to respond to this outrage against humanity, and a pragmatic resolve to reduce its vulnerability to future attacks. The world has seen just how terrible the consequences can be when terrorists have the hatred to murder innocent civilians, the resources to coordinate and conduct systematic operations, and the fanaticism to sacrifice their own lives. The evil genius who conceived of using a passenger airplane in kamikaze mode calculated that its 200,000 pounds of jet fuel would make it a weapon of mass destruction. And so it was, with more than 3,000 deaths resulting from each plane used against the World Trade Center, more than ten times the fatality rate caused by past attacks with truck bombs.

The United States can take many actions to make this sort of attack more difficult to carry out, and it will do so, despite the inconvenience and expense. But as Washington moves to reduce the vulnerabilities exposed by the last strike, it should also try to anticipate the next one. As deadly as the World Trade Center disaster was, it could have produced a hundredfold more victims if the terrorists had possessed nuclear or biological weapons. And the future threat could come from hostile nations as well as terrorists.

Nuclear or biological weapons in the hands of terrorists or rogue states constitute the greatest single danger to American security -- indeed, to world security -- and a threat that is becoming increasingly less remote. Several nations hostile to the United States are already engaged in covert programs to develop nuclear weapons, and multinational terrorist groups have demonstrated both by word and by deed that their goal is to kill Americans and destroy symbols of American power. Such terrorists have escalated their methods from truck bombs to

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