I did most of the thinking and research for my series on the cardinal virtues as part of the work on a just counterterrorism model that I am developing, a model similar to the one that just war theory offers for warfighting but designed to address the unique problems of counterterrorism. The anecdote with which the second installment on courage begins (to be posted Thursday) now seems timelier than ever.
First, some good news. Terrorism is not an intractable problem. Indeed, all terror groups end and most of them lose. In part, terror groups suffer defeat because these groups adopt terrorism, whether as a strategy (big picture) or tactic (approach to a specific situation), out of desperation and weakness.
Second, some more good news. The degree to which terrorists achieve victory depends largely upon how the people who are attacked respond rather than directly upon anything that the terrorists may or may not do. Terrorists attack innocent third parties, hoping to achieve a political victory. Terrorists aim to win that political victory through attacks that produce progress toward their instrumental goals of revenge, renown, and retaliation.
The 9/11 attacks illustrate this dynamic. Although the death toll and economic costs of the attacks were terrible, the greater costs were self-inflicted. These include precipitous drops in stock prices unwarranted by the economic effect of the attacks, the pervasive fear of flying that paralyzed much of American society, and the overreaction of invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq at a cost of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.
A community that exhibits courage (i.e., refuses to be terrorized), prudence (adopts proven, affordable defensive measures), justice (insists on upholding the rule of law in its counterterrorism efforts), and temperance (e.g., refusing demands for immediate revenge) not only refuses to cede victory to terrorists but also turns apparent defeat into victory.
In the aftermath of the bombings on the Boston, those injured deserve our prayers. Our nation deserves our courage, prudence, justice, and temperance. Whoever the perpetrators were, deserve defeat. Terrorism is always immoral.