Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau: Author News
On the Other Side of Terror’s Boom


Jun 09, 2017

By Juliette Kayyem,

The terror attack in London on Saturday night — the third in as many months, the second in as many weeks — demonstrated the persistence of the threat we face and the ease with which terrorists can carry out their schemes. Three men, with nothing more than a rental van, knives and fake bomb vests intended to keep both regular citizens and law enforcement at bay, killed at least seven and wounded a couple dozen more. This was a terrifying event for which ISIS has now claimed responsibility, but it was hardly a sophisticated act: a vehicle, some knives and ruthless determination.

Prime Minister Theresa May was hardly coy in her response. Claiming that “enough is enough,” May signaled that greater powers were needed to prevent these attacks from happening in the future. Her words placed specific blame on an Islamic community she felt had not done enough to minimize radicalization and the social media platforms that too easily allow radicalization to occur. The policies that will follow will inevitably focus on expanding efforts to prevent terror from occurring, mainly in the areas of detention and surveillance.

Combined with President Trump’s tweets blaming some vague but somehow effective notion of political correctness as the reason terrorists can’t be stopped, the two leaders both reverted to an exclusive focus on what is called in the crisis management lexicon “left of boom.” The measure of success, in other words, is simply whether or not an attack happened. It’s a simple metric, and surely one that terror organizations want us to adopt.It is a calculation weighted in their favor. Any attack, no matter how successful, is a victory for them and a defeat for us.

But it is the other side of that spectrum — “right of boom” — where nations must also begin to define victory, especially in an age when we can’t prevent every attack no matter how much we would like to. We can still succeed, however, by making these attacks less effective and therefore less scary. While governments are already focusing on both sides of the boom, prevention takes too much of the spotlight from the more familiar, and often rote, activities of first responders.

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