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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

“Why No More 9/11’s?”

March 20th, 2009 · No Comments

Timothy Noah has written an interesting article, “Why No More 9/11’s,” in the online publication, Slate. Noah examines some of the leading theories why the U.S. has not been attacked by terrorists again, ranging from Al-Qaida’s patience to the nation’s anti-terror efforts. As he writes in the introduction to his piece:

Islamist terrorists struck Bali, Madrid, London, Mumbai, and many places in and around the Mideast, but they haven’t struck the United States. Why not? The question is impossible to answer with certainty. But given that the “war on terrorism” was (for good or ill) the defining pursuit of George W. Bush’s presidency, anyone seeking to understand the previous eight years of American political history must ask it.

More urgently, our new president, Barack Obama, is surely pondering this question as he assesses the present risk of a terrorist attack on the United States and how best to address it. I spent the Obama transition asking various terrorism experts why the dire predictions of a 9/11 sequel proved untrue and reviewing the literature on this question. The answers boiled down to eight prevailing theories whose implications range from fairly reassuring to deeply worrying.

Noah doesn’t take a position on which of the eight theories he favors, acknowledging it is an unanswerable question. The uncertainty is in line with what I have heard from law enforcement officials, many of whom are surprised we have not been attacked again, but don’t have a definite explanation why. One former top police official once gave me a memorable answer to the question: “We haven’t been attacked,” he told me, “because we haven’t been attacked.”

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