News reports coming out today are revealing that a terrorist plot uncovered last year, which targeted the New York subway system, was larger than originally thought. Indeed, the plan also called for attacking targets in the United Kingdom as well as the United States. At the same time, other reports are surfacing of Al-Qaeda agents being detained in Norway, which has thus far escaped attacks by radical Islamists.
The threat of terrorism is often overblown, especially by people in the right-wing media. For all the damage and casualties they can cause, terrorists do not pose a threat to the continued survival of the American republic. The threat is certainly not sufficient to cause our nation to throw away the Bill of Rights or launch unprovoked invasions of sovereign states. But these terrorists are dangerous killers and reasonable steps need to be taken to protect ourselve from them.
The international nature of terrorism, especially loosely-organized networks like Al-Qaeda, require an international response. Only the law enforcement and intelligence agencies of many nations working together can effectively prevent terrorist acts, as the recent arrests demonstrate quite clearly.
Jefferson wisely advised us to stay out of permanent entangling alliances, but he also called for working together with other nations when they were confronted by a common threat. In the 1780s, during his tenure as one of American's chief diplomats in Europe, Jefferson attempted to organize a multi-national naval force, which would warships from France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and others, to launch a a punitive campaign against the Barbary Pirates of North Africa, who had been preying on merchant ships of many nations. Faced with the threat of international terrorism in the 21st Century, we should follow his advice and ensure a strong, unified response to terrorism, in which we act effectively with our allies.